Luminous Paintings Capture the 24-Hour Rhythms of New York City

Artsy Editorial
Mar 21, 2014 6:12PM

Mapping out the circadian rhythms of New York City is no easy feat; with upwards of 8 million residents and the reputation of a “city that never sleeps,” New York operates on an effervescent schedule that transcends the cues of daylight. A living, breathing entity in and of itself, the city has been captured under countless lenses and paintbrushes, and the latest contender, Joseph Peller, triumphs through a painterly focus on people, light, and the thoroughfares of everyday life.

In “Circadian Rhythms of the City,” Peller’s show now on view at ACA Galleries, he reminds us that New York is a port city. Capturing the spirit of Canaletto’s famed paintings of Venice’s bustling waterways in the 18th century, from the vantage of his Brooklyn Navy Yard studio, Peller presents several paintings featuring tugboats, barges, and cruise ships. Extending the focus beyond the inners of Manhattan island, he points out the lively channels that, literally in constant motion, drive commerce and pleasure.

Delving down to street level, Peller visits Union Square, the Met, and Grand Central station, but also anonymous avenues and restaurants, all with a careful consideration of the people in his path. Featuring countless individuals who pass each other without acknowledging one another, Peller captures the isolation and anonymity of living in a big city, despite the surplus of people. Several works like Afternoon at the Met and Midfielder focus on a single person, caught in a fleeting moment of escape from the daily bustle, or taking time to contemplate a painting or rest on a park bench after a soccer game—enjoying the city’s infinite opportunities.

With a penchant for cool periwinkle blue and a complementary, fiery orange, Peller’s dawn and twilight scenes have the power to transport you to New York on a warm summer night. His sensibility for light is spectacular—be it headlights reflected on wet cement, the glow of a street filled with traffic, warm illumination falling from a street lamp, or the sun disappearing into the horizon—and through it he captures the pulse of the city.

Circadian Rhythms of the City” is on view at ACA Galleries, New York, Mar. 13th–Apr. 19th, 2014.

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Artsy Editorial