San Francisco

Chester Arnold

William Sawyer Gallery

The legacy of the vogue for “bad” painting has been a lot of bad paintings. But when and if the art world rewards skillful image-making again, Bay Area painter Chester Arnold will be in a strong position. Arnold has evolved his own brand of dreamy, intermittently nightmarish realism. It is governed by a rich, flickering touch that is equally conversant with the American reverie of Charles Burchfield, the landscape space of early Dutch painting, and the cryptic, in-yourface narrative of the late Philip Guston. Several of the big pictures in Arnold’s latest show have worm’s-eye vantage points, partly to allow the artist the pleasure of painting, almost blade by blade, swaths of parched grass. Arnold tunes his work’s verisimilitude to allow for a generous, but not too sumptuous display of paint.

For all its probity of technique, Arnold’s art is not without irony or self-preoccupation. This

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