The copying of re-rendering ot old masters has a long and venerable history. The Romans copied the Greeks, the Renaissance masters copied the Romans and the academicians ot the 19th century copies the Renaissance masters. More recently, such stellar figures as Van Gogh, Cezanne and Picasso were "borrowers" who in turn became "lenders" to countless modernists.
Rainer Gross is an artist who subscribes to the theory that there is much to be gained from the study of art history and the adaptation of the styles of other eras. He calls his approach "personal improvisations with themes in art history." Although his attitude is far from universal, it was once the mainstay of art education and the foundation on which many an original talent built a personal esthetic.
Last years "Art about Art" exhibition at the Wnitney Museum reminded us that the art of the past can still provide valid models, even in an age when the unique and objective statement has been valued as never before. A prominent figure in that show as Larry Rivers, perhaps the most consistent renowned "borrower" of his generation, who has spent the last 30 years quoting everybody from Rembrandt to Hiroshige.
As an assistant to Mr. Rivers for four years, Mr. Gross was evidently in a sympathetic environment, although he states that this interest in art history predates his association with Mr. Rivers.
Gross is interested in the styles of art at various periods in history. He likes to take off from the art of the past, to use it as a point of departure.