A Conversation with Emerging Jewish Artist Alain Rogier
In the six years that Alain Rogier has devoted himself to painting after a career in law, his large-scale abstract canvasses have been exhibited internationally, most recently in Jerusalem, Israel, and Kyoto, Japan. His exhibit at LA Artcore in Los Angeles, which can be seen on YouTube, is drawn from his “Night Noises” series and was filmed and set to music. Alain lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sandy, also an attorney-turned-artist.
ReformJudaism.org: You retired from your law practice at age 65 to devote yourself to painting. What motivated you to make such radical change in your life?
Alain Rogier: My motivations for pursuing a career in family law and art are very much related. In light of life’s difficulties, I wanted to engage in tikkun olam (healing the world). When I represented people going through a divorce, I strove to bring them a sense of peace and wholeness when they were most vulnerable. By helping them get back on their feet and take better care of themselves, I could help them improve their lives and their children’s lives.
Still, the negativity of the profession took an emotional toll on me, so I was determined to find another way of confronting the human condition in all its complexity. My wife suggested that I pursue my interest in art, as she had done earlier. Support from my mentors and a growing confidence in my abilities to create more than pretty images sealed the deal.
Why is confronting the human condition so important to you, and how is this imperative manifest in your art?
It comes from the recognition that but for Auschwitz, where my parents met, I would not be alive. Being a second-generation survivor means I cannot go quietly in the world. The night noises are too loud; the graffiti in my mind is too strong. I needed to understand life and its machinations and at the same time to find beauty and serenity to protect myself and those dear to me.
In my paintings, windows, doors, and escape hatches abound. Human shapes grapple with life while searching for serenity and inner peace, reaching for heaven or at least touch another soul. Seeing the world in this way necessarily gives my work bite, some edge.
There is an ongoing dialectic conversation in my paintings between the positive and negative aspects of the human condition. This is particularly true in my Holocaust series. One viewer asked, “Does a bright yellow rectangle in the center of a smoky greyish black field represent a view from the crematorium oven or through the slats of a suffocating railway car? Do we infer death, hope, liberation, or a mystical focal point …?”
I wrestle with the conflicting moral messages of Theodor Adorno, who insisted that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” and of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who asserted that as long as there is an awareness of human suffering, there must be art as an objective form of that awareness.
I want my paintings to challenge the viewers, to engage them in an unsettling yet redemptive dialogue, to awaken in them an understanding that, while the human condition may not be pretty or what we desire, if we look at it closely, we may glimpse moments of life’s inherent beauty and possibilities for tikkun.
What were the greatest challenges you faced in transitioning from being a practicing attorney to a professional artist?
The initial personal challenge was being able to let go of control, to allow the paints, canvas, the various tools to speak and have an organic life of their own. In a new world of primarily non-verbal, self expression, I had to come to terms with the inner dialogue that replaced daily communications with counsel, clients, and courts. My artist wife and muse, Sandra Lauterbach, helped me make this transition.
There is a point where, as a painter, you need to realize that for your art to be honest and have something to say, you need to be in touch with and true to your innermost feelings and thoughts. Not only that – to remain independent, you must be willing to challenge your assumptions continually. The other challenge is to understand that the art world has its own business paradigms and politics, which remain in perpetual flux.