Kelli Vance: Context is Everything.

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Houston, Texas artist Kelli Vance studied at Texas universities and apparently chose to stick close to home, teaching at various schools since, including her own alma maters, the University of Houston and the Glassell School of Art at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

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Her brand of austere realism might recall any number of painters, though the specifics of Vance’s scenes and subjects make me scratch my head to think of accurate comparisons, scrolling through a mental list of various bad-girl/boy artists who like to play with conventions by juxtaposing provocative images in deceptively complacent looking settings. Some of these are pretty brave works depicting unsettling scenes, but with a kind of dark poetry about them that forces you to look…and just keep looking. And if that makes you uneasy, then I’m betting the artist would be pleased.

It’s interesting to consider how context is everything, though. Mystery/crime fiction enthusiasts are accustomed to — even expect — all kinds of murder and mayhem on treasured vintage pulp magazine and postwar paperback covers, treating them as kitschy novelties, often as not. But when those same things are depicted (nowhere near as gruesomely) in an entirely different context — in paintings hanging on a wall in a gallery or museum, for instance — they suddenly become that much more provocative and disturbing. Not drawing conclusions, mind you. I just find myself intrigued.

See more works in a following post…

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Love Never Looked So Lonely: John Meyer.

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Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, John Meyer is known primarily as a portrait painter and landscape artist, his commissions including public figures like Nelson Mandela and F.W. DeKlerk alongside multi-piece historical series.

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But here we’ll zero in on Meyer’s intimate scenes of very real and largely unglamorized people in what look to be – at best – troubled relationships and love affairs dissolving right before our eyes, whether in penthouse suites or desolate motel rooms. That they are grim and sad, they’re beautiful nonetheless, fitting comfortably under a ‘Noir Art’ label even without a shoulder holster or smoking .45 in sight. Love never looked so very lonely to me as it does here.

More work from this artist follow in the next post.

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Marc Figueras’ Mystery.

Marc Figueras http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com

Along with working on the restoration of the stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia cathedral, Barcelona Spain hyper-realist Marc Figueras has built an enormous body of work comprising enigmatic large format paintings, most depicting anonymous contemporary figures, sometimes with their backs turned to the viewer, their faces often obscured, each a puzzling mystery about the who, what and why of each subject. Which makes the painting shown at the top that much more of a mystery, but one of very few of Figueras’ works revealing the subject’s face, and inevitably leading the viewer to wonder why — and precisely what — has transpired in this scene, the small snapshot clutched in the woman’s hand the only clue…

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Julie Nicolle’s “FanArt”.

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Only in her mid-30’s, French painter Julie Nicolle spent her post-university years working in the Paris business world, finally turning her back on commerce while still a twenty-something about to become a thirty-something. She set up her atelier in Orleans and began painting energetic, often distressed large format portraits, some of which she labels ‘FanArt’. See more work at the artist’s site, www.julienicolle.com.

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A 30’s-40’s Era Stylist: Mario Cooper

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President of the American Watercolor Society from 1959 through 1986, Mario Ruben Cooper (1905 – 1995) authored multiple how-to books on the challenging medium, and often worked in watercolor for his commercial illustration assignments, unlike so many contemporaries working in oils or gouache. Born in Mexico City, Cooper grew up In Los Angeles, later studying on the east coast at Columbia University and the Grand Central School of Art.

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His commercial career flourished through the 1930’s and early 1940’s with covers and interior story illustrations for Collier’s, Esquire and other glossies, which included multiple Agatha Christie mysteries and hard-boiled crime fiction thrillers. After WWII he taught at the Pratt Institute, then was assigned to document the history of American aviation for the military, many of his pieces from that era still in the Pentagon’s collection. Cooper is a Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductee.

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Brent Joseph Lynch

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Brent Joseph Lynch studied at the Vancouver School Of Art And Design and England’s St. Martin’s School Of Fine Art, eventually working under Nicholas Ray and David Hockney before launching his own successful career as an illustrator and muralist. His fine art work filters sleekly modern and sometimes nearly noir-ish contemporary culture iconography through an ‘Hopper-esque’ style of simplicity, depicting everything from intimate vignettes to blatantly nostalgic scenes.

Spot some influences? We’ll all see some, from Peregrine Heathcote to Jack Vettriano to Edward Hopper to any other of a long list of contemporary painters mining retro-flavored settings and tropes. Myself, I really like the things Lynch is probing in these pieces, and I eagerly look forward to seeing where it all goes.

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More From Richard Blunt

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More work from UK painter Richard Blunt. See a prior post for additional paintings from this modern realist juxtaposing retro imagery with modern themes while exploring his primary interest: the depiction of dramatic light.

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Richard Blunt

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UK artist Richard Blunt hails from West Midlands, studied 3D design, then found himself homeless during his 20’s, gigging with various bands before rediscovering his visually creative side and taking up painting in earnest. His particular interest: the depiction of dramatic light in realistic images, so it’s no surprise that he’d name artists like Michelangelo Caravaggio (almost synonymous with chiaroscuro to many) as an inspiration. Some will see echoes of Scottish painter Jack Vettriano in Blunt’s work, but then some see Vettriano’s influence every time they see a painting of a vaguely retro fellow in a white shirt, suspenders and a brimmed hat.

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Myself, I’m seeing Hamish Blakely, Rachel Bess and Fabian Perez as just a few of the diverse crop of contemporary painters currently juxtaposing retro iconography taken from Golden Age Hollywood films and even postwar vintage illustration with edgier or ironic modern themes and treatments. The result? Often not unlike Neo-Noir in film and literature.

But as always, I’ll leave all that stuff to the professors and art critics and just enjoy the work. More of Richard Blunt’s paintings follow in a subsequent post.

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