Mastery

Belmont Hills, Ian Tornay

Belmont Hills, Ian Tornay

When I walked into the Bowery Gallery last week, I could have sworn the ghost of Fairfield Porter had been summoned to choose the current show. Ian Torney’s oils have internalized and absorbed a great part of what Porter achieved, and he has taken Porter’s intuitions and refined them into his own perfectly executed landscapes, still lifes, and the one self-portrait on view here. He works in the same mid-range of values, avoiding the brightest and darkest ranges of light and dark, muting his colors into effortless harmonies, evoking detail rather than rendering it—painting the light between objects rather than the objects themselves, as Porter phrased it. He does it all with seemingly unconscious ease: what others struggle for years to achieve and never attain. If art buyers were looking for genuine greatness, rather than simply a good investment, this show would have sold out. I think I saw only one or two red dots, even though these paintings were vastly underpriced. Buying art now must be a lot like choosing a college for your high school grad: just go to an art fair and look for the one that’ll pick the most money from your pocket. Anything that high-priced has to be the best, right? If you want to know what’s great about painting and what’s depressingly bad about the art market, take a look at Tornay’s work while it’s still up for the final days of the show.

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