“Think of the sheer pigheaded guts it took for as serious and ambitious an artist as Adam Straus to become a landscape painter in the 1980s,” she wrote. “A century had passed since Cézanne torqued his trees into astringent meditations on the nature of painting; decades since the Abstract Expressionists swallowed the genre whole. The tradition into which Straus dared to tread… was sorely in need of reanimation.”
How exactly did Straus set about such a daring task? By infusing his works with a sense of urgency. His paintings are not just representations of the world around him, they’re explorations of social and environmental issues. Note the melting ice cap of An Early Spring (2002), the scorched landscape of Fire and Earth (2008), and the ominous title and bleeding edge of the otherwise picturesque Toxic Run-Off: Waterlilies (1999).
Even the pieces that seem simple and beautiful on first glance, like Man on a Small Island (2011) are vaguely anxiety-producing when you pause in front of them for an extended moment. Is that a cloud, or is it smog? Is the man trapped on the island? Is that rising water related to global warming?