A New Lens: Art of the American West
The American West occupies a powerful, romantic position in the country’s popular imagination. This particular slice of Americana calls to mind desert mesas, Spaghetti Westerns, grand forests, frontierism, and the open road, as well as archetypal cowboys and Indians, subjects that have been explored by the likes of Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. Artists of the American West, such as Frederic Remington with his bronze broncos and paintings of American Indians, are receiving renewed attention within art history, and several artists at LewAllen Galleries, located in Arizona and New Mexico, are addressing the epic landscapes of the West, and humanity’s place within them, through a fresh lens.
Boyd & Evans and Woody Gwyn depict the great expanses of space and dramatic, pristine coastlines of the West, respectively, in panoramic oil paintings. Gwyn’s Big Sur (2008–9) and Coastal Highway II (2010) show the Pacific Ocean, devoid of human presence except for empty roads, from different vantage points, capturing its glowing horizon line and craggy cliffs along virtually untouched shores. The collaborative duo Boyd & Evans similarly represent the West’s wild landscapes, but place signs of human life within them, in the form of cars, trucks, and anonymous figures. In works that recall the fisheye effect of panoramic photographs, Boyd & Evans enliven winding desert roads and gas stations.
In other vertically oriented paintings of California’s fertile farmlands and historic estancias, Gwyn portrays the Sunshine State’s powerful light and long shadows, while John Fincher zooms in on the cactuses, prickly pears, and pine forests indigenous to the West. Rendering his subjects in representational close-ups, Fincher captures sharp contrasts and explores vivid, sublime colors that have inspired artists of the American West for generations.
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