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Some PaintersRackstraw Downes
Filmed in Presidio, Texas in late 2010, painter Rackstraw Downes describes why he views the work of some long-deceased painters to be relevant to his own contemporary practice.
Paintings by such artists are shown including Claude Lorrain’s Sunrise (1646–47), Jacob van Ruisdael’s Wheat Fields (1670), and J.M.W. Turner’s The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1834–35). Despite not using the same techniques as these painters, Downes seeks out their work because he considers it “useful,” “provocative,” and “like challenges.”More information and credits
Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Ray Day. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Rackstraw Downes, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
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Rackstraw Downes does not think of himself as a landscape painter, but as a painter of his surroundings—his environment. Often painted in a panoramic format, Downes’s images evince careful attention to details as well as to broad expanses of their surroundings. Created plein air in locations as diverse as metropolitan New York, rural Maine, and coastal and inland Texas, and without resorting to the use of photography, his compositions feature horizons that bend according to the way the eye naturally perceives. Downes often works in series, examining single scenes from multiple angles, over time, and in the process reveals changing qualities of light and shadow as well as changes in his own point of view.
“I don’t have any sentimentality about those painters. It’s that they seemed useful to me and provocative to me. They were like challenges to me.
‘Can you do this that well?'”