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2009 MacArthur Fellow – Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes in his New York apartment

Rackstraw Downes in his New York apartment

The Santa Fe Art Institute is honored to bring you realist painter Rackstraw Downes, a 2009 MacArthur Fellow, as part of our Visiting Artist & Lecture season, Memory: Shadow and Light, Art as individual/collective memory.

Rackstraw Downes Lecture

Monday 10/26

6pm Tipton Hall

$5 general | $2.5 students/seniors/sfai members

Rackstraw Downes is a British-born realist painter and author. Downes’ work combines the familiar with a sense of minimalism. His long, sprawling landscapes lack human subjects, yet they highlight man’s interaction with the environment. The large public spaces in his work explore the effects of light

and atmosphere and look to capture a specific moment in time. Downes’ paintings are full of meticulous detail gained from months of regular plein-air sessions. His work is in the collections of many museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Downes was recently award a 2009 Macarthur Fellowship Award.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

In a 2008 New York Times story, Ken Johnson said, “He [Downes] is impressively skillful. His panoramic views of New York streets with steel bridges looming overhead or of sunbaked Southwestern landscapes are so thoroughly detailed and faithful to light and atmosphere that they could be mistaken for copies of wide-angle photographs […] What quickens it all is the feeling of being extraordinarily alive to the moment. Mr. Downes favors subjects that would seem mundane, drab or sadly desolate by calendar-art standards, but he paints them so attentively that the resultant images have a breathtaking, even shocking lucidity. In this respect they are paradoxical. You have the sense of seeing a situation suddenly, all at once, as if you’d just stepped outdoors from a dark room. Yet you can also see that the paintings were produced by a patient, incremental process. There is something soothing about that for a viewer exhausted by the frantic pace of contemporary, hypermediated experience. Looking at these paintings slows you down and revives your senses.”

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