Belknap and Covi Galleries, Allen R. Hite Art Institute

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY



Mark Priest: Women and Men of the Railroad

February 16 - March 15, 2001


Mark Priest's paintings are intensely focused portrayals of human activity invariably remembered from firsthand experience. Whether he himself has actually lived the experience (as in the scenes depicting railroad repair work, which he did for some seven years of his life) or only observed it, the paintings provide a direct and immediate appeal to our emotions. What gives them such directness in the first place certainly is due to the way Priest brings the action right up to the front. Like Goya, he makes the viewer feel himself or herself at the very threshold of the action-close enough to be able to feel its heat and passion but not so close as to be lost in it. Secondly, Priest laces tangible matter, the human figures and the essential objects of their setting and activity, into patterns that allow little or no escape into empty space. (left: The Track Worker, 6 x 8 inches, 2001)

Even the limited spaces that are present to clarify the contextual relationships of the figures and their actions, are themselves animated as if in response to the activity depicted. In the third place, Priest does not linger over details. He subordinates details in favor of the broad forms or so successfully sweeps them out of sight into the ever-pressing rhythms of the composition that we don't even miss them. In the end, the tensions and dramatic effects of limbs, torsos and incidentals of setting bound together into tightly closed configurations are fortified by a strong contrasts of color and of light and dark. (right: Two Track Repair Women, 70 x 96 inches, 1999)

Dario Covi, Curator

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