Culver City, CA
Maxwell Alexander Gallery, May 14-June 11
This story was featured in the May 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
G. Russell Case, Glenn Dean, Billy Schenck, and Tim Solliday—these are not your grandfather’s cowboy painters. Maxwell Alexander Gallery has gathered together the four artists to showcase what it perceives to be a shift in western art, one which hews faithfully to the genre’s much-beloved subjects—wide vistas, lone men on horseback, and mythically stoic Indians—but often with more graphic sensibilities that reimagine the classic themes. The show, entitled Looking Forward, opens on Saturday, May 14, with a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The gallery’s location in a now-hip area of Culver City is, fittingly, steps away from a few of the former movie studios where some of film’s best-loved westerns were produced.
“All of these guys are taking elements from the past and pushing the genre forward,” says gallery owner Beau Alexander. “Their subjects are characteristically western, but the group’s approach is fresh and exciting.” While each artist’s style differs from the others, Alexander sees their shared focus on design and a particularly contemporary way of “putting paint down on a canvas” as a compelling reason why young collectors are so drawn to their work.
“We all have a love of outdoor light,” notes widely collected painter Tim Solliday. “And we resist a photographic look. Our paintings may not be entirely literal, but they are true and full of life.” HUNTER’S MOON, one of the two or three pieces the artist is contributing to the show, captures the waning light as an Indian paddles home, his canoe heavy with the weight of a just-killed deer. Undeniably contemporary though the work may be, it nonetheless demonstrates the direct inspiration of early 20th-century American illustrators.
In similar spirit, paintings by Glenn Dean are at once contemporary—reducing shapes to their most essential parts—and nostalgic, informed by the rich history of other painters who gravitated toward the West. Populating his landscapes with figures is still a relatively new element in Dean’s work.
On the surface, works by G. Russell Case and Billy Schenck appear to be dissimilar. Case’s painterly style contrasts starkly with Schenck’s pop-art stylizing. Both artists’ pieces are confident and rife with subjects specific to the West, yet their canvases seem nearly to be wrought from different materials. Still, like every artist in Looking Forward, what connects them is a paring down to the most elemental. Indeed, as Alexander notes, “These artists are making brave choices and breaking away from tradition. It is a different time for western art”—a time steeped in history, certainly, but thrumming with a new vitality. —Lynn Dubinsky
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