“The work is absolutely stunning and profoundly moving....a true heir to the great Tonalist tradition in American art.”
- David Cleveland, author “The History of American Tonalism: 1880 – 1920”
SANTA BARBARA, CA - For his first solo exhibition with Sullivan Goss, L.A.-based artist Chris Peters will deliver nineteen paintings – the very brightest of which is illuminated by a full moon whose lower half is hidden behind the silhouette of a tree. These paintings imagine a liminal space – the border between where the eye begins to see and where some unseen and perhaps more profound reality ends.
Whistler called these kinds of paintings nocturnes in an attempt to entwine the feelings of Romantic music with his painting. Before that, “moonlights” – as night paintings were once known – were relatively rare. It is probably not a coincidence that their popularity waxed with the popularity of Gothic romance novels, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and the vogue among Pictorialist photographers for images that were dark and dreamy. In American art, many of the paintings of the period are now described as Tonalist.
The Gallery has long held an interest in night paintings. In 2001, a very successful exhibition of night paintings whetted the local appetite for these kinds of images. Subsequently, the gallery’s representation of the Estates of Lockwood de Forest, NA (1850-1932) and Leon Dabo, NA (1864-1960) as well as contemporary Tonalists like Nicole Strasburg, Sarah Vedder, and Jon Francis confirmed Sullivan Goss as one of the preeminent destinations for collectors interested in these aesthetics.
So, the night paintings of Chris Peters have precedents in both the history of American Art as well as the gallery’s exhibition program, but these are fresh. They are undeniably contemporary. They are also more indebted to the insights of infrared photography. Finally, they represent a striking turn for an artist trained in clear and crisp Realism.
New research suggests that there are different “chronotypes.” Some people are day people. Others are night people. These new paintings from Chris Peters should certainly appeal to the latter group. A catalog with a brief essay by Jeremy Tessmer and notes from the artist is available for this exhibit.