This was a very wet-on-wet technique, where the fluid paint was worked into running glazes, the material mimicking the nature of humid streetlight halos during an inky urban night. When I look at it at a distance (seeing it as a photograph in this post) I note that it is slightly surreal.
The picture is dream-like or pared down to a memory. I simplified the intersections, leaving out confusing barriers of bollards and planters that clutter the area nowadays. Why are there three taxis, only? Do they echo the triangular Flat Iron Building? A lone pedestrian tries to hail them.
This will begin a series of character studies, inspired by old photos found in my archive. This scene is now a quarter century in the past, so details found in the photo have begun to assert a special veneer of history. Because I was concerned with time here, I decided to pack this little canvas with denotative detail.
The makes of cars, for instance, look different, sporting the more angular 70/80s style. Public telephone boxes were still a fixture of each block (the trash bag poncho-wearing street guy looks to be approaching a phone… a reflexive finger search for a free quarter, or an urgent call?)
Tony, the white-jacketed gent, is certainly a NY type. Can he still be seen on the streets, or is he more a part of our collective imagination, promulgated by wise guy films and TV? I've always been intrigued by his pose. For a guy with obvious experience and street smarts, doesn't he seem a bit hesitant, especially in the middle of busy 8th Ave? Or did I capture him the very instant he spots someone… someone he has been looking for fervently, or perhaps someone he has been hoping to avoid?
About a year ago I was struck with this corner at 14 Street and Second Ave. It seems to evoke New York that is harder to come by these days. The store is indigenous, or at least not a multinational Star Bucks-like chain, which seems to have taken over much of Manhattan. I like the sign because it has sculptural elements, not a plastic banner.
The time of day is crepuscular--yeah, might be leaning on my nocturne crutch a bit here, but not full-blown. The effulgence of the corner warrants it--and I am still challenging myself in that I have chosen the tricky square as a format. I've always avoided the square, having somehow absorbed the idea that it is noncommittal. (neither landscape or portrait.)
Perhaps painters eschew the square because of its static nature. I've tried to offset this by inferring movement by the cropped taxis: one entering, one leaving. The viewer completes the circuit, imagining the world to the sides.
I had fun with this summer scene set at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge during summer. This area is chaotic, a bottle neck of pedestrians who are sometimes confused about the walking lanes vs. the biking lanes.
I wanted to compare and contrast the milling people and congested traffic with the more imposing, immobile gothic towers of the bridge ahead. I wonder if the biker will manage to find his way forward without breaking. This is an atypical scene to paint, full of day lit colors and human anecdote and incident-- a challenge for me.
I'm getting the paint palette rolling again with some smaller paintings. Painting has been challenging lately after a series of abdominal operations. Not only is it a highly mental activity, it's also physical--something one is aware of when standing or even sitting up straight is compromised or painful.
Nonetheless, when you get over the bump and heal a bit, painting can be therapeutic if you don't overdue it--so I like to do these smaller format, more intimate canvases. I'm not soft-pedaling, however: I've chosen to explore some lucidly day lit scenes, full of detail and color. My crutch of the nocturne (which is concerned primarily with values at the expense of colors ) lies in the corner for the moment.