new-york

Ena Swansea, Tiny Plastic Hands, 2016, oil on graphite on linen, 20 × 30".

Ena Swansea

Albertz Benda

Ena Swansea, Tiny Plastic Hands, 2016, oil on graphite on linen, 20 × 30".

A visitor once asked me how long it takes a new arrival to become a New Yorker. My considered response: You are a New Yorker when you start to miss the “real” New York, the one you knew when the city was still fresh to you and hadn’t yet been replaced by . . . whatever it is that the next wave of arrivals brought with them. By that standard, I might have to call myself an inhabitant of the city that Ena Swansea evokes in her most recent paintings. It’s recognizably New York, but not as I see it when I walk its streets these days. Swansea’s New York is wrapped up in a decayed Romanticism that’s hardly been felt in these parts since the 1980s, and this despite the fact that her imagery discreetly incorporates contemporary details, for instance the signage for a fast-food chain that didn’t exist back then (shake shack in the summer, 2015). More often, her paintings focus on

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