DELFIN FINLEY (b. 1994), "Undefined Horizon," 2018, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in., private collection; www.delfinfinley.com

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

DELFIN FINLEY (b. 1994) is keeping realism real. The Los Angeles artist paints representational portraits of his peers that focus on the pervasive racial issues of our time. Emerging on the scene in 2014 as a participant in several group shows, Finley was offered his first solo exhibition at Lora Schlesinger Gallery (Santa Monica) in 2017. Titled “Some Things Never Change,” that project highlighted experiences that people of color continue to encounter and sold out completely.

Finley’s portraits often take a close look into the eyes and expressions of black people carrying the weight of circumstances past, present, and future. Several of his works examine the angst and anxieties his generation wrestles with, painted in unflinching detail.

“Some Things Never Change,” for instance, is a sobering scene of a young black man in a defeated position with a rope hanging not far from him. “Dead Man Walking” illustrates the probability of a young black man’s violent or premature death, while a portrait of Finley’s father, “It’s Only a Matter of Time,” represents men of color and the danger they face on a daily basis.

While several of Finley’s portraits convey a frank sense of despondency, discouragement, and despair, ultimately they are intended to offer hope through awareness and change. “Undefined Horizon” is a painting that seems to carry glimmers of that hope. The artist has intentionally introduced some ambiguity here: a black man is seen only from behind, wearing a shirt with the number six on its back and a headcloth made of fine silk. Is he a present-day athlete? An ancient pharaoh? One of a numbered lot? Whoever he is or was, Finley seems to suggest that he will have to determine his own future.

As Finley continues to grow in popularity in Los Angeles and nationally, he is being noticed not only by realists but also other sectors of the contemporary art community. The issues into which his art delves — and the manner in which he addresses them — speak powerfully to our times.


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