Monday, October 18, 2004

Rackstraw Downes, Three London Plane Trees Near the Track in Red Hook Park (2002)

"Oh, realism," said an artist friend who should have first looked and then spoken. Downes' paintings are concerned with how perception organizes itself, and in translating this organizing process into paint. In practice this means multiple points of perspective; objects wrap and bend and warp around his canvases in ways that can probably only ever be accomplished with brushes and pigment. And so the landscapes depicted in these reticent pictures -- Texas irrigation ditches; East Coast parks; desert suburbs -- are inner landscapes, too, maps of how the eyes and mind (to say nothing of the heart) translate sight into knowing.

Great Peter Schjeldahl review and color illustration in this week's New Yorker, interview and more pictures from the current show here.

From Schjeldahl:

"Philosophically, “realism” is the doctrine that things exist independent of our perceptions of them. In art, it names any effort to square perception with what is perceived—a project long ceded, in modern times, to photography. There is an existentialist, not to say quixotic, flavor to Downes’s insistence on realizing the real by hand. Such is the case with his five-canvas study of the Rio Grande flood-monitoring station, an accumulation of views of an antennaed metal shack above a tire-tracked floodplain, red aerial markers on an overhead cable that stretches to a distant bluff, prickly brush, sun-soaked concrete, umber shadows, and burning blue sky. The result is a sense of place overwhelming in its very banality. Downes likes jam-ups of culture and nature, where practical human uses overlap with indifferent geology and shaggy flora—he is the bard of weeds."Posted by Hello

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