RIDGEFIELD, CT.- The exhibition features Rackstraw Downess three-part painting, Under the Westside Highway at 145th Street: The North River Water Pollution Control Plant, and the many sketches and preparatory works which were part of the process of its creation. The work depicts a space which the artist describes in his journal as very ancient Rome; Piranesi-like
with enormous columns, and some nice curves
Typical of Downess work, it is an in-between space, utilitarian and majestic; a manmade space next to the Hudson River, which quietly gleams behind the trees, stage left.
The paradox of Downess work is that at first glance, to our twenty-first-century eyes, it appears to be photo-realistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. This snapshot of a particular location at a particular moment was in fact meticulously crafted over a year and a quarter. On site. With no camera involved.
Downes works up his compositions through repeated observation and study as he makes sketches, drawings, preliminary paintings, and ultimately, the final canvases. What appears to be a moment in time has been constructed by the artisteven the joggers and cyclists carefully rendered from observationeven if that means the jogger must be asked to run by again and again, until her form is captured and the composition improved.
Downes keeps a journal in which he records his working process, thoughts on art, exhibitions, books, and his personal life. The exhibition brochure will feature excerpts of his journal which document the creation of Under the Westside Highway at 145th Street: The North River Water Pollution Control Plant, and a related painting of the George Washington Carver housing project at 103rd Street and Park Avenue, which is also on view.