Sublime 19th century American landscape paintings aren’t quite at the forefront of the L.A. art scene today, but artists Henry Landes Bell, Lee Piechocki and Julian Tan are drawing inspiration from the values presented by the Hudson River School and refracting them back to the audience through the lenses of past ideals and present reality.
“Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent” has been in the works since August. All of the artists’ pieces will “deal with the landscape in a condensed urban environment” in their own ways, according to Bell.
“I want people to feel the feeling of being in these spaces, of being in a place where your presence or absence no longer matters but once did…that kind of melancholy,” Bell said of his five pieces premiering at the show’s Keystone Gallery opening on Saturday, January 18th.
Bell’s meticulously detailed oil paintings (each took upwards of 100 hours to complete) depict urban abandonment in a way he hopes the audience finds as inspiring as he does.
“There’s something so sublimely beautiful, and I mean sublime in the sense that I can’t imagine anything more achingly sad, than to see our world fall in on itself,” he said. “There’s something about these empty spaces and these open spaces where [there was once] noise and smoke and chaos, and now there’s just quiet and this sense of everything falling back into balance.”
The idea for the show was mostly a no-brainer for Bell, who’s been quietly enamored with the Hudson River School since his art school days. He wonders why oil painting is sometimes deemed anachronistic and challenged in contemporary art.
“I’d tried a lot of different painting techniques, but they were all monstrously disappointing to me. And so I took it back to oil painting, and it was everything to me. I just loved it,” Bell said. “A lot of artists owe a lot to the Hudson River school, but not a lot [of artists] in the hip contemporary scene will give it much credit. The work has some real value, at least in terms of technique if not in terms of subject matter.”
The audience can decide for themselves how much contemporary value stems from the ground laid by the Hudson River School’s “rich douchebags,” as Bell cheekily referred to the movement’s artists when addressing the less desirable side of its history. (It was largely funded by industrialists and heavily reflected and influenced the Manifest Destiny movement, which was detrimental to countless Native Americans.) Perhaps in “Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent” viewers will find the same quiet beauty in sitting with today’s decaying urbanity that past Americans did in embracing the pastoral unknown.
“Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent” opens Saturday, January 18th, 2020 at Keystone Gallery near Los Angeles State Historic Park at 6:00 pm. The 15 pieces by Bell, Piechocki and Tan will be available for viewing from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm for two weeks thereafter.
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Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent January 18-27 Opening reception Saturday, January 18 6-10pm Keystone Gallery presents an exhibition of new works by three emerging artists engaged in defining and further complicating the legacy of American landscape painting. Centering on their responses to decay and alienation in the Anthropocene era, Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent features works of art by Los Angeles-based artists Henry Landes Bell, Lee Piechocki, and Julian Tan. Devoutly rendered, exquisite and sometimes tender meditations on an increasingly precarious world, the work exhibited in Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent reexamines misled nineteenth century artistic ideals of growth and national identity as defined by the Hudson River School. The Hudson River school has withered under the contemporary lens. The large and central ugliness of its relationship to Imperialism and its financial backing resting securely in the pockets of the railroad tycoons and land speculators which abetted and often encouraged the invasion of the westward reaches of the continent has dimmed its prestige. Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent takes on the concepts held dear among the ranks of the Hudson River School and positions the work of Bell, Piechocki and Tan within the same framework in order to create a reflexive discourse. The Hudson River School systematically worked to forge a sense of national and cultural identity through the elevation of the American landscape into the sublime. Reverent Revenant Remnant Referent asks what these rigorous methodologies of observation and rendering can highlight in terms of our relationship to both the ideals of the past and the realities of our present environment. #groupshow #painting #mixedmedia #hudsonriverschool #losangelesart #laartscene