New York

James Winn

Sherry French Gallery

James Winn is an artist with a mission: to create a paradisiacal vision of nature. Taking as his focus the Midwest farm belt with its endless cultivated acres topped by broad swatches of sky, he has captured the spiritual side of the outdoors. In a sense, he is pushing the American tradition of transcendental landscape painting, associated with such 19th-century luminaries as George Inness and John Frederick Kensett, into a contemporary arena.

Working in acrylic on paper, Winn has developed a style as rich in detail as it is suffused with feeling. He has managed to be meticulously convincing about appearances and yet expressive—that is, wonderfully persuasive in his invocation of the unseen forces animating nature.

The recent paintings are based on Winn’s driving tour of the Midwest with his son, during which he soaked in the ambience of the places he visited, photographing various sites from his car. Back in the studio, Winn referred to these shots while planning his compositions, but left himself free to alter elements of the pictures as dictated by the demands of his vision. He might, for example, bring together the land from one view and the sky from another, in order to make the most evocative picture.

In Tornado: No. 2, 1991, Winn offers an awesome rendition of the destructive winds, capturing an atmosphere of impending destruction through a combination of color and viewpoint. The emotive tenor of this picture is conveyed through the intense expression of graphic values, in subtly shaded passages of grays, blacks, and whites, as well as through the sharp contrast between the threatening tower of the tornado and a small stretch of flat land.

The middle-ground orientation of the scenes, suggesting views through a car window, makes the paintings comfortably accessible. In Corn Cribs, 1991, this compositional device focuses the symbolic associations of the sparkling passages of sunlit and glowing sky that top a most attractive line of trees.

Ronny Cohen