John Haber reviews an exhibition of paintings by Rackstraw Downes at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, on view through May 3, 2014.
Haber compares Downes' fisheye perspective to T. S. Eliot's "still point in a turning world.” Haber continues: "When an artist takes his time, every exhibition can aim for a rediscovery, even if he has never really left... Downes can sustain the tension between specificity and transience... What he does have is the view, as he puts it, 'as far as one can see.' He no doubt enjoys the phrase’s ambiguity between boasting and a modest subjectivity. Both impulses contribute to his preference for panorama over linear perspective. It can arise from successive views, successive versions, or that view approaching to a fisheye."
An new video documents painter Rackstraw Downes painting on site in Presidio, Texas.
Speaking about his attraction to the area Downes comments: "I'm interested in landscape where people have acted upon it. I grew up in a landscape like that. England is very lived upon... The American romance with the untouched landscape is foreign to me. It never exactly hit me, and I like the landscape that has been modified. It's ok, people aren't so bad and they go in there and they do these things and some of these things are rather wonderful. This is one of those places to me."
Yau writes that the show presents "11 paintings by artists committed to working from observation. Chronologically, the artists span five decades (or generations), with Lois Dodd and Lennart Anderson, born respectively in 1927 and 1928, being the oldest. The youngest include Gideon Bok, Anna Hostvedt, Sangram Majumdar and Cindy Tower, with Bok and Tower born in the 1960s, and Hostevedt and Majumdar born in the 1970s. The other artists are Susanna Coffey, Rackstraw Downes, Stanley Lewis, Catherine Murphy, and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, who were born between 1938 and 1949. Together, these artists — a number of whom have been influential teachers — suggest that observational painting is a vigorous, various, and imaginative enterprise that continues to fly under the radar."
In this video short, Rackstraw Downes discusses looking at old master paintings by Jacob van Ruysdael, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and Claude Lorrain.
Downes comments: "I don't have any sentimentality about those painters, I don't think. It's that they would seem useful to me and provocative to me. They were like challenges to me - can you do this that well? So I can't access those painters technically, but I can acces them through various things that their paintings do."
Caleb De Jong reviews an exhibition of new paintings by Rackstraw Downes at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, on view through November 24, 2012.
De Jong writes that "each picture in this exhibition searches for a moment of stillness, the moment when all traces of the human presence vanishes. Downes process, hours spent minutely detailing the industrial remnants of our civilization, becomes long distance visualisations of the world without us. Given that Downes paints each painting on site, over many hours and days, the nature of his subject matter would drift towards the monumental and unmoveable. Downes paintings, however, despite the grandeur of vista and mass of buildings, project a vulnerability, a sense of loss, a morning to what has been projected onto the landscape, and what the landscape is slowly reclaiming."
Jennifer Samet interviews painter Rackstraw Downes on the occasion of an exhibition of new paintings at Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, on view through November 24, 2012.
Downes comments: "...we are a sound bite culture. My work is very slow; it evolves very slowly. I have been drawing in a four-block range, with the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital on the right, and the overpasses and on and off ramps from the George Washington Bridge on the left. I could work there for years. When you’re there, as Cézanne said, you keep seeing more and more things. Almost anything becomes a composition and a possible motif. The longer you look, the more you see. You do really feel like you could paint on that painting forever. You discover new things, new relationships, not only the ones to the left and right, but you stand back, and discover new ones right where you are working. It is by painting it that you clarify it to yourself. You keep searching and searching. And to say that you’ve found it is not true. You’ve only found one section."
Frank Hobbs transcribes excerpts from a newly posted video on the painter Rackstraw Downes.
Hobbs quotes Downes: "When I… started painting from observation, one of the reasons was that I didn’t want to be so damn self-conscious about my paintings… Why not just look at something and paint it the way it is? Plop! And that’s what I did... People often say to me, why do you pick such banal subjects, and I don’t understand that at all. They don’t seem to me to be banal in the least. They’re full of magic."
Harry Swartz-Turfle writes about the unique dedication to looking at the core of Rackstraw Downes' painting practice: "... when you think about how much of modern and contemporary art relies on juxtaposition or exaggeration for effects, Downes' approach begins to seem downright revolutionary."
Swartz-Turfle also notes that "[Downes] wanted the discipline of reality's variation instead of the suppositions that come with ideas about reality. It's a kind of meta-conceptualism that makes Rackstraw Downes a postmodern plein air painter."
Bill Morris writes about painter Rackstraw Downes on the occasion of the exhibition Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008, a retrospective on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC through August 21, 2011.
Morris looks at Downes' move from hard-edge abstraction to landscape painting through the prism of his [Downes'] book In Relation to the Whole: Three Essays From Three Decades, 1973, 1981, 1996. "Downes’s literary training comes through when he describes what he was trying to do: 'I wanted to get rid of style, art, artiness, everything extra. I think this is what Stendahl meant when he said that every morning before writing on The Charterhouse of Parma he would read a few pages of the Civil Code.' "
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.