Hollis Dunlap: Modern Master
Hollis Dunlap, though still in his 30’s, has been exhibiting in New York and nationally for over a decade. While Dunlap superbly displays the lessons learned from Renaissance masters Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Vermeer, he marries these skills with an appreciation for more contemporary artists like Diebenkorn and Hopper. The resulting paintings and drawings result in thoroughly modern works that embrace the representational and the abstract. There is a searching quality to the painting’s finished state, a wandering aspect of the brushwork as it seeks newly discovered marks to make and an endpoint that feels both resolved and spontaneous.
There are two separate stories that underscore Dunlap’s talent. The first was at a 2009 New York exhibition, where a quiet, dignified gentleman inquired about, and then, purchased one of the figurative works. This turned out to be the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a man with access to most of the art on the planet, and he chose Dunlap’s art to hang in his home study.
Later at a 2012 exhibit, Robert Hughes was walking by the gallery, paused at the window for several minutes before coming in to the show. Hughes, one of the most important art critics of his time and would pass away within months, was moving with great difficulty and utter reliance on a cane. In spite of his obvious pain, Mr. Hughes spent nearly an hour studying each of the works Dunlap had on view nodding his approval and heading out the door. This was an extreme compliment from an authority that had regarded and eloquently expounded upon the greatest art of the ages. In the current artworld, where ephemeral spectacle and base displays garner economic and critical attention, he may have recognized in Dunlap the commitment, intelligence and uncompromising reach that makes art something more, something higher, something to dedicate your life to and something that is the best that humanity can aspire to.
Hollis Dunlap continues, with each year, to stand less in the shadows of the grand masters as he moves into their rarified midst. He gives monumental grace and status to the simplest of scenes and imbues a timeless dignity to each face he portrays. He is, quite simply, one of the finest painters of his generation.