Long before Chelsea, Soho, and the Lower East Side, 57th Street in midtown Manhattan, was where the upscale art galleries could be found, and some of those still exist today. One of these is a family-owned space known as Rehs Contemporary Galleries between Madison and Fifth Avenues currently presenting a diverse group exhibition in conjunction with the Art Renewal Center (ARC). The show features several oil and acrylic paintings from six different artists who were selected as this year’s winners at ARC Annual Salon. The chosen candidates Philippe Attie, Richard Hall, Joseph McGurl, Walter Rane, Duffy Sheridan, and Kari Tirrell are all of different generations but all of them integrate character, meaning, and feeling into their work.
Phillippe Attie has been painting since he was 11 years old, and his paintings have a dreamlike, ethereal quality to them as he strives to capture aspects of the human soul through his subjects. In one painting titled Voyage, he portrays a young woman asleep with her surrounding environment of spirals, feathers, and colorful swirls represent her being transported into another world in her dreams. Attie represents himself as a small child with works like Lullaby depicting a baby boy sleeping on some blankets with his small arm outstretched, and Sound of Innocence depicting a young boy wearing shorts playing music on his horn, very similar to that of baby angels playing heavenly melodies with their instruments.
Walter Rane’s riveting ocean paintings also possess a somewhat divine quality as subjects revolving around religion have been an interest of his since childhood. Paintings like Rising illustrates nude figures emerging from and walking on the water with the sunlight reflecting upon them. A similar piece titled Earth, Sky, Water depicts nude figures bending over backwards with one female balancing in the air with her head tilted back and her arms stretched out as the sun shines upon her. A more turbulent work known as Atmosphere depicts the effect of a storm on the ocean with waves sharply springing up, hitting the rocks, and throwing someone in the air.
Joseph McGurl is regarded as one of the most influential modern American landscape painters, having been taught by his father James McGurl, who paints murals. The subjects of McGurl’s paintings are inspired by numerous 19th-century plein air painters and by the many places he’s traveled. Notable works include the perfect shot of the position of clouds in Passing Clouds in the Tuscan Hills and the cliffs and sunset in Twilight, Hudson River, and the sun gleaming on the Hudson River in Manhattan from the Palisades.
Duffy Sheridan’s paintings are also inspired by his many travels and he captures the beauty in everything he sees. His works are influenced by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he searches for insight into the human soul with his portraits of young girls and women. For instance, two paintings known as Esperanza, and Bring Thyself to Account both depict women with long hair and wearing long robes with their hands in prayer position as they stand in front of a halo and staring directly ahead. Sheridan also captures the thoughtful states of mind of his subjects (an adolescent girl in each one) in paintings known as The Whale Watcher and Young Girl by the Seashore, both of which take place on the beach.
Richard Hall has enjoyed a long, successful career in fine art using his talents to explore the opposing worlds of abstract art and still-life. In 2010, when Hall’s granddaughter was two years old, she rearranged his work in a playful manner which gave him ideas for new still-life paintings, some of which revolve around modes of transportation. For instance, one painting known as College Fund features a small model of a taxi cab resting on a suitcase with a tip jar filled with coins in the backseat as the shadow reflects onto the wall, while a similar piece titled Freedom Rider depicts a child’s bicycle with one wheel in the front, and two wheels in the back, with an American flag sticking out from the backseat.
Kari Tirrell grew up drawing people and animals and won her first award at age 11. She later began experimenting with abstract acrylic painting before returning to realism, and she currently paints contemporary still-lifes in acrylic, oil, and soft pastel. Tirrell’s latest collection of paintings reflect a playful innocence as they include images of colorful, toy birds in humorous settings. One image known as Tattletale, for instance, features a baby blue and yellow chick with its wings spread out and speaking into the ear of a black dodo bird dressed in a suit and tie and wearing a hat. A similar work known as Shell Game features two chicks standing across from each other and shouting as though they’re fighting over a turtle who appears less than thrilled. Another amusing image titled Fowl Play depicts five different types of birds lined up against a wall as though they were suspects in a crime.
At Rehs Contemporary Galleries Inc., 5 E. 57th St., through Nov. 18. The gallery is open Mon.-Fri. from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.