This 30-year retrospective of Hearne Pardee’s landscape paintings shows the distance, both geographically and stylistically, that an artist can travel through a career. The 20 easel-sized paintings, from locations where Pardeelived and traveled in America and Europe, are also a product of his influences and personal development as an artist responding to the landscapes he encountered.
The earliest paintings on view, dating from the mid-70s to 1980, are East Coast urban streetscapes, almost all of them devoid of people. The buildings and the leafless trees on the empty streets are illuminated by a low clear winter light that separates highlights and shadows into sharply contrasting bands of light and dark. Pardee writes that Cézanne inspired these early paintings, and this influence can be seen in the stark geometries and interlocking compositions that dominate the canvasses. Stiff branches and telephone poles break the bright blue of the sky into geometric shapes that often mirror the planes of the architecture. Even though they are quintessentially American scenes, featuring New York and New Jersey, the lingering connection to the traditions of European Modernism and the vocabulary of formal abstraction that informed academically trained East Coast painters of his generation is clearly evident.
The paintings from the mid-80s follow his travels around the United States, from Maine to New Mexico, where the landscape itself expands and the sky opens. They also show a shift in his brushwork and composition. Always a vigorous painter, Pardee employed an even stronger gesture and richer palette to interpret the interaction between the land and the sky in these new locations. No longer interconnected, these two elements coexist instead, each defined by separate strong directional brushwork that almost acts like the wind blowing through the territory.