During March and April the George Adams Gallery will present “Differing Views,” a group exhibition featuring the work of five notable realist painters: Rackstraw Downes, Richard Estes, Yvonne Jacquette, Andrew Lenaghan, and Rod Penner. Each artist will be represented by multiple paintings including a new series of tondos by Lenaghan and four pastels by Jacquette.
Differing Views” examines the way in which these artists, all known for painting urban environments, imbue their subjects with an immediately identifiable style. All five depict their immediate and – to them – familiar, surroundings, yet each artist’s work is distinct by their choice of subject, point of view, compositional approach and painterly touch. Rackstraw Downes is best known for his extended compositions emphasizing the dynamism and flow of the urban structures he typically finds around Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Of particular interest to him are the spaces around and under the overpasses that exist at the edges of the city, as in the two paintings included. That Downes paints en plein air, carefully composing his paintings from direct observation is a revelation at odds with his seemingly distorted or abstracted views. Also working in Manhattan, Richard Estes searches out the fracturing potential of the city’s reflective surfaces. His views are intentionally indirect, even cubist in spirit, a tendency derived from his method of manipulating and collaging visual elements together. In the painting “Wholesome Foods”, the richly detailed scene –buildings, cars, scaffolding, patrons – exists entirely within the plate glass window. Yvonne Jacquette, literally takes herself out of the city, opting to study her subjects from (far) above. Her views of New York celebrate the grid layout and vertical layering of buildings in her axonometric compositions. While being specifically located (her titles are typically precise) and descriptively accurate, hers are the most fundamentally abstract paintings of the group. At her most reductive in ‘City Lights,’ the series of pastels included in the exhibition in which she distills a nighttime aerial view down to a scattering of colored dots. Andrew Lenaghan, like Downes, engages directly with the city (in his case, Brooklyn) by painting on-site, subjects he often revisits, such as the Gowanus canal, the view from a friends’ rooftop and his own backyard. In Lenaghan’s most recent works, on twelve-inch circular panels, he plays freely with the rules of two-point perspective, as in the looming overhang of the BQE in “Moishe’s Storage” or the bending horizon in his view of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Rod Penner, on the other hand, is a master of the understated, capturing a small town’s modesty and flat, low profile within the larger landscape. His small-scale paintings are intimate and emphasize the human scale, as opposed to the geometries and dynamic architectural forms of the city. There is drama in his compositions but it is reserved for the play of light on surfaces, the wear of time on a place, most visible in paintings such as “Ranch View,” seen here.