Travel has long played the muse for writers and artists alike, inspiring them to pen and paint the impressions and reflections that emerge from fresh perspectives on the world. Mark Twain, James Joyce, and the Beat generation of West Coast writers are some of the literary greats that have taken to the open road, boarded ships, and consigned themselves to relative exile in search of inspiration. Likewise photographers (see Sebastião Salgado and Edward Weston) and painters (Paul Gauguin and Georgia O’Keeffe among them) have trained their eyes on foreign terrains and cultures.
Brett Amory, a native Virginian, focuses on environments that are culturally a little closer to home, painting scenes around urban metropolises in his acclaimed “Waiting” series. On the heels of his 2012 and 2013 exhibitions “Twenty-Four in San Francisco” and “Twenty-Four in New York,” Amory now features London in his first show at Lazarides Rathbone Gallery, “Twenty-Four in London. ” Amory traversed the city by bike over the course of a month to research his subject; more than 50 hours of video and hundreds of photos later, he brings us 24 sensitive and evocative paintings of both the iconic and the unremarkable—capturing the National Museum and Abbey Road, as well as anonymous commuters at Bethnal Green Tube Station, a glimpse through the doorway of a corner shop, and the neon signage of London’s red light district.
Ranging in mood, Amory’s images evoke all the grit and melancholic, humdrum routine of city life; and moments of both alienation and transcendence, conveying the deep psychological presence of their subjects. “I feel especially drawn to individuals who look lost, lonely, or awkward—those who don’t appear to fit into local societal norms. As the title suggests, the ‘Waiting’ series illustrates how people are distracted by a constant internal dialogue, preoccupation with memories of the past and/or concern for the future, and are often unable to live in the present moment,” Amory explains. In one painting, Londoners on a packed train avert their eyes from one another, while in another, commuters are bathed in hazy light. In many, he displays a formalist eye for the angles and geometry of city streets and road signs, such as in the flattened 9 - 10pm Arabian House, 18 Ernest Street (Waiting #200), in which a man in shorts and flipflops sits outside government-funded housing on a deck chair and watches the world go by, the utilitarian buildings behind him rendered as blocks of color. The great diversity of London’s vast sprawl and population can be found in these 24, absorbing paintings, which are presented in Lazarides alongside multimedia installations.
“Twenty-Four in London” is on view at Lazarides Rathbone Gallery, London, through April 13th, 2014.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory