It's a long way from Manhattan's Lower East Side to suburban Davis. Hearne Pardee's journey to California covers 30 years of painting, exemplified by the 20 oils on view in his retrospective at Alex Bult Gallery in midtown.
Pardee received his Bachelor of Arts from Yale in 1969 and subsequently studied at the New York Studio School in the early 1970s where Philip Guston was teaching and the influence of Hans Hoffman lingered. While there, he began working outside, haunting the streets of Manhattan like a 19th century flaneur, looking for moments of revelation in urban spaces.
His paintings of Houston Street from this time have a desolate, lonely quality that makes one think of Edward Hopper, though that connection, says Pardee, was not what he had in mind. Still, there is a haunted feeling to the works with their bare tree branches and a lone figure sitting on a bench as if rooted to the spot.
At the time, Pardee says, he was much more interested in Cezanne and Matisse, though he was encouraged by his teachers not to paint like those masters. Nevertheless, one can see the influence of Cezanne clearly in some of the works he did after receiving his Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 1975.
Pardee and his wife, painter Gina Werfel, moved around the country from teaching job to teaching job before they settled in Davis, where they both teach at the University of California. Wherever they landed, Pardee continued to paint outside, seeking inspiration from his surroundings.
Throughout the 1980s and '90s, he addressed landscapes in Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico, as well as the Umbrian countryside during a sojourn in Italy in 1984.
One can see the golden light of Umbria and the complex pattern of fields and houses bathed in hot sun in works like "Montone" and "Niccone," which have the structural integrity so prized by Cezanne. That influence is also apparent in works like "Carver's Harbor," a Maine scene. Here the complexity of the fishing village is rendered in thick, directional brushstrokes and lush colors.
Pardee states that the more dramatic subjects of Maine and New Mexico called for stronger colors and a deeper development of the painting's surface. There is a thick tactility to many of these works in which he explored, at times, the use of the palette knife.
"Mount Philip" is a gritty painting made of slashing strokes of the knife. In contrast, there is a radiant softness to "China Lake," a place in Maine that has a different feeling than the vigorous "Mount Philip" and "Carver's Harbor."
A rich romanticism marks a moody, atmospheric view of Abiquiu River in New Mexico while there is a fresh, scrubbed quality to open skies over the desert in another scene of the New Mexican landscape.
Pardee moved to California in 2001, where he liked the dryness of the parched landscape and the rural and suburban areas of Davis and Vacaville. He states that these subjects inspired a more restrained application of paint, along with a renewed interest in the ordinary nature of suburban houses and yards.
"Birch Lane" portrays the cultivated lushness and homeliness of simple structures on a suburban street. "Edge of Town" catches the emptiness of golden fields and the regularity of tract houses in the distance. The parched land figures, too, in "Hills and Horse Barn," a rural scene near Vacaville.
Pardee is alert to and engaged in his surroundings wherever he goes, capturing the genius of the place and its particular light. Light, he states, is a unifying factor throughout his paintings as it responds to location and connects all the elements of a scene. Daylight, which is never muddy or out of sorts, is Pardee's muse in these singular responses to the environment.
EVERYDAY LIGHT, OIL PAINTINGS BY HEARNE PARDEE
When: Through June 1. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
Where: Alex Bult Gallery, 1114 21st St., Suite B, Sacramento
Information: (916) 476-5540