California landscape paintings -
Ben Aronson, “Southern California Coast,” 2019, oil on panel, 72 x 60 in.

LewAllen Galleries’ second solo exhibition of Ben Aronson’s paintings includes cityscapes that demonstrate the artist’s remarkable capacity to convey — in masterful combinations of impressionistic atmosphere, color, and light — the sensory experience of a captured moment in the life of a city.

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Aronson’s signature synthesis of realism and abstraction expressively translates the everyday reality of metropolitan forms and life — rooftops, skyscrapers, streets, stop signs, and sidewalks — into resplendent tableaux of urban geometry and motion, light, and shadow that uniquely compress the spirit of a place. In the group of paintings that comprises “Views from Above,” Aronson conveys his scenes from the rooftops, an aspect of the urban environment typically hidden from view. These works attest to Aronson’s resolute view that, even at its most quotidian, the city is “the wellspring of visual ideas … everything in the world is there, concentrated, and comes at you like a great rushing visual tsunami.”

Ben Aronson, “Silver Light, Rooftops and Coast,” 2019, oil on panel, 24 x 24 in.

Indeed, the work included in this LewAllen exhibition reorients us to a higher, more omniscient vantage point, allowing us to experience a quieter, more meditative side of the urbanscape. In these paintings, set mainly in Southern California, the visceral tumult of city life recedes from view, its clamor reduced to a low, contemplative hum. In its place, Aronson’s attention turns to the sunlit rooftops and allows our eyes to stretch across the expanse of the city to glimpse what lies beyond — coasts, mountains, or even horizon lines made bare where the sky meets the earth. The result is imagery that conveys a far more reflective approach, built on carefully executed geometric rhythms of architectural shapes and rooftops, and with a heightened sense of atmosphere as the viewer moves further into the painting.

Ben Aronson, “Rooftops and Ocean,” 2019, oil and collage on panel, 48 x 36 in.

The artist’s expressive painterly style is characterized by fluid yet restrained brushwork. “The main objective is not merely to capture physical likeness,” Aronson says, “but rather to aim for the most concentrated form of a powerful visual experience.” This gestural application of paint — while underpinned by a precision indicative of a remarkable eye for realism — conveys his imagery through suggestions of implied movement and space. Aronson renders this sophisticated engagement with the urban world in fleeting glimpses of movement and evanescent light — the cosmopolitan grid alternately sharpened and blurred into streaking geometry and hard-edged shadow.

Ben Aronson, “Hollywood Hills,” 2018, oil on panel, 12 x 12 in.

Art critics have long been captivated by Aronson’s striking contribution to the tradition of American landscape painting. Art historian Joanna Fink, in 2006, wrote: “Aronson creates a continuum that begins at the turn of the 20th century and ends at the tip of his brush. But while he carries with him the accumulation of his study of the art of the past, it is ultimately Aronson’s own experience, his own hand which guides the brush.” In 2007, arts writer George Tysh noted Aronson’s firm place in art history, positioning him with Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, and Fairfield Porter: “[All four are] realists whose compositions express an acute awareness of underlying geometries and forms, and who never forgot about the paint in painting.”

Ben Aronson was born in Boston to two remarkable artists. His mother, Georgianna Nyman, was the highly respected portrait painter of the United States Supreme Court justices; his father, David Aronson, was a noted sculptor and a founding member of the legendary Boston Figurative Expressionist Movement of the 1940s and 1950s. Ben Aronson enrolled at the School of Fine Arts at Boston University and studied under Reed Kay, John Wilson, and James Weeks, who introduced Aronson to the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Aronson was also under the tutelage of Philip Guston and worked as his studio assistant.

Ben Aronson was the recipient of the 2006 Childe Hassam Purchase Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Aronson’s ability to capture what Childe called “humanity in motion” of the city, as well as the immediacy of its light and shadow, confers a kinship between Aronson’s work and that of the famous impressionist painter. Aronson’s paintings are included in the permanent collections of more than fifty museums, including the De Young Museum in San Francisco; the San Diego Museum of Art; the National Academy Museum, New York; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Eli & Edythe Broad Museum, Michigan; the Houston Museum of Fine Arts; the Butler Institute of American Art, Ohio; the New Mexico Museum of Art; and the Orangerie in Gera, Germany.

Opening on Friday, June 28, with a reception for the artist from 5:00–7:00 p.m., “Views from Above” will be on view at LewAllen Galleries (Santa Fe, New Mexico) through Sunday, July 21.

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