New York

Hugh Kepets

Fischbach Gallery

Hugh Kepets showed paintings and drawings of windows with fire escapes and their shadows, and of architectural details. Some of these were life-size or larger. Most of them seem to have been seen—as some of the titles indicate explicitly—from the artist’s studio window. The illusionistic force of the pictures is such that in some cases the canvas seems actually to be shaped around the projection of a form in the image but at the same time it is also work clearly stylized in the manner of architectural rendering, in a way that differentiates it from photo-Realist work. The shadows and highlights are treated as definite areas of color—the same technique an architect would use for smaller drawings, but blown up here. The picture is painted to avoid the optically correct viewpoint of a photo-Realist picture. And yet occasionally a sign or other image within the picture tends to break it out of the context of architectural rendering and convert it into a full view of the world—as when a G.E. sign shows up on an air conditioner in one of the windows. Such instances are interesting violations of the strictly defined system of the paintings.

Kepets’s abstract interests are evinced by the way that some of the paintings feature the same view done twice in different, carefully chosen color schemes. Great attention is paid to the shadow patterns on the walls of the buildings. They seem an almost obsessive extension of the architect’s treatment, and flatten out as the eye attaches their patterns to the outlines of the fire escapes in a single grid work. Often, too, the pattern of the shadows eludes naturalistic attribution: it is hard to tell whether the multiple shadows are generated from an element that is in the picture or from other elements outside its view. In the felt-tip pen drawings in the show the emphasis is simply on the abstract pattern, but the paintings, with their limits of view and style, suggest an ambiguous relation to the full world around them. Kepets keeps us shuttling between perception of abstract patterns (which happen to be architectural) and perception of real views which sacrifice order to seize upon a part of the whole and living environment. The ambiguity is the success of his subtle but very present technical prowess.

Phil Patton