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
with his bronze broncos and paintings of
American Indians, are receiving renewed attention
history, and several artists at LewAllen
, located in Arizona and New Mexico, are
addressing the epic landscapes of the West, and humanity’s place within them,
through a fresh lens.
and Woody Gwyn
depict the great expanses of space and dramatic, pristine
coastlines of the West, respectively, in panoramic oil paintings. Gwyn’s Big
(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.