Right now, Betty Cuningham Gallery in New York City is hosting an exhibition of paintings and drawings by artist Rackstraw Downes. If you’ve been around Houston or West Texas, it’s possible you’re familiar with Downes and his work: Houstonites might remember him from his solo exhibitions at Texas Gallery in 2007 and 1988, as well as his subsequent inclusion there in group shows. West Texans might know him because he normally spends part of his year in the small border city of Presidio, and has a long history of showing work and spending time in Marfa.
The artist’s paintings and drawings at Betty Cuningham Gallery have a familiarity about them because they’re drawn from the world — Downes’s world. Weather he’s depicting small moments within a metropolis or the wide expanse of a Texas desert, he’s painting what he sees. While talking to Fredericka Hunter, the owner of Texas Gallery, about Downes’ paintings, she pointed out what it is that makes his works so enjoyable: he has a talent of turning the small details and overlooked elements of society into specific, significant moments of recognition.
Downes is a plein air painter in the truest sense of the word — he’ll set up in the middle of a landscape — like on a traffic median, a precarious spot for an artist — and get to work. His paintings are meticulous and can go through various cycles, taking him multiple seasons to get right. After all, Downes can’t paint Presidio when he’s in New York. And although some of the pieces in this exhibition are indoor scenes, Downes still approaches them with the gusto of the wind in his hair.
Rackstraw Downes: Paintings and Drawings is on view at Betty Cuningham Gallery (15 Rivington Street, NYC) from September 5 through October 14, 2018. See below for images of the show, and go here to read Peter Schjeldahl’s review of the exhibition.
Note: all images courtesy of the Artist and Betty Cuningham Gallery. Click to enlarge.