New York

Rackstraw Downes, Outdoor Passageway at 15 Rivington, 2016, oil on canvas, 29 × 12".

Rackstraw Downes

Betty Cuningham Gallery

Rackstraw Downes, Outdoor Passageway at 15 Rivington, 2016, oil on canvas, 29 × 12".

“If something is real to you,” as the realist painter Rackstraw Downes writes—suggesting that things aren’t real until they are personally real—then the question is not, “What is this phenomenon I’m perceiving?,” as he says, but, “Why is this phenomenon real to me?” Or, how is something important enough to catch the eye and engage the mind? What is the motive, conscious or unconscious, that led Downes to paint what he painted here? We can understand why he chose to depict his studio, a sort of self-protecting inner sanctum eloquently realized in a trio of paintings: Skylit Loftspace, NYC (seated); Skylit Loftspace, NYC (standing); both 2015; and Studio with Two Skylights, 2017. He portrays it with a sort of luminous transparency, as though inviting us in. Its grandness is emphasized, perhaps even exaggerated, by the deep, quasi-aerial perspectives from which it is viewed.

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