Entitled “The High Line”, Diane Drescher’s solo show of plein air paintings opening at the Bowery Gallery on October 2, 2012, transforms views of the historic freight rail line on Manhattan’s West Side into a lyrical art of simplified forms and strong chromatic harmonies. As a plein air painter, her methodology is rooted in a response to sensations experienced through close observation of the natural world.
Straddling the line between representation and abstraction, Drescher creates monumental compositions from the stacked, rectangular forms of buildings hugging the old rail line and arched elevated walkways, evoking Matisse and the Tunisian landscapes of August Macke. The edges and angles of the structures serve as frames and diagonals suggesting spatial movement, even as the thin, brushy washes of paint describe an abstract pattern of colored shapes that creates a surface tension reminiscent of Milton Avery.
Often painted early in the morning or late afternoon, Drescher’s High Line paintings are devoid of people, yet they are not in the least forlorn or desolate; indeed, the harmonic relationships of the building forms and their placement in space suggest a warm rapport, as if the structures were a stand-in for jostling humanity. Absence becomes charged presence: a sense of suspense and suspension animates these luminous compositions. They are “landscapes waiting for people to arrive, even when the people are already there,” as Deborah Solomon wrote in the New York Times Book Review. Solomon was referring to David Hockney’s early California pool paintings, but the description is no less apt for Drescher’s work. Like Hockney’s pools, Drescher’s strata of elevated architectural forms, floating above the gravity-bound streets of the city, signifies transcendent possibilities.
The High Line series represents the artist’s latest foray into the urban landscape. Her other subjects include the bridges and waterfront of New York City as well as the seascapes of Long Island and the landscapes of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. Born in Wisconsin, the New York City-based artist has shown throughout the New York metropolitan area, including the Helen Hayes Hospital, in West Haverstraw; the NOMAA and Bowery galleries; the Historical Society of Rockland County; the Long Island Museum; the Edward Hopper House, in Nyack; Columbia University; the Garnerville Arts & Industrial Complex; Dominican College; and Boricua College. She studied at the Art Students League, the National Academy of Fine Art, School of the Art Institute, in Chicago, and earned a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin. This is her first solo show at the Bowery Gallery.