Rackstraw Downes: Onsite
December 16, 2010 - March 20, 2011
Introduction and Acknowledgments
- Your work cannot become more popular unless you choose
subjects of greater interests... It seems to me that you might have sought
over most landscapes for miles together, and not stumbled over anything
so little rewarding your pains and skills as that "ditch and wheatfield."
- - John Ruskin, 1855
- For more than thirty-five years, the English-born, Yale-educated
painter, Rackstraw Downes has made a case that nothing can be more, rewarding
than painting that "ditch and wheatfield." Dividing his time
between New York and Texas, Downes has been depicting the American vernacular
with extraordinary scrutiny and intelligence.
- Originally educated as hard-edge abstractionist, Downes
began to paint landscapes in the mid-1960s in Maine where he had just bought
a house. He was encouraged by the work of some of the leading figurative
American painters at the time -- Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter, Neil Welliver,
Joseph Fiore, and Jane Freilicher, among them.
- In 1974, deeply touched by the sixteenth-century Flemish
painters, especially Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose works he discovered
while visiting Belgium and Holland, Downes began to paint exterior and
interior panoramic scenes of the American land- and urbanscape from life
in Maine, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and elsewhere entirely on the spot
or en plein air.
- Downes's paintings remind us that looking is not equal
to seeing. They invite prolonged examination, in essence, recreating the
artist's own "intelligent" vision, which is as much about knowledge
as it is about perception.
- Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008 is organized for the Parrish Art Museum by Klaus Ottmann. The
presentation of this exhibition and its catalogue are made possible, in
part, with generous support from the Lannan Foundation, Rex Auchincloss,
Philip Isles, Francis Williams, and an anonymous donor.
Return to Rackstraw Downes:
Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008
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