A LANDSCAPE WE ALL HELP TO MAKE

May 2022

WHATEVER YOU THINK realism means, Rackstraw Downes is certainly some kind of realist—and, moreover, one whose elective subject matter is landscape. That in itself suggests a quixotic temperament in an artist born in 1939 whose immediate contemporaries include any number of abstract, Conceptual, and performance artists but few realists—at least of his stature.

And even among painters pursuing realism in his generation, Downes looks like an outsider. Despite the fact that he edited a valuable collection of Fairfield Porter’s writings, there’s nothing in his work of the intimism and subjectivity of the artists who followed Porter’s lead in updating what Downes identified as “the almost accidental unpretentious domestic situations in Vuillard.” Nor—though his landscapes might seem, at first, to have been seen through a fish-eye lens—did Downes take his cues from the camera, as the

— Barry Schwabsky

SUBSCRIBE starting at $50 a year
Choose your subscription—either print or digital—and get immediate access to all online content, including the archive.


DIGITAL ISSUE $5.99
Immediate online access to this issue.


BACK ISSUES STARTING AT $15
A single copy of the print issue, mailed to you.


Subscriber? Login here.