Preview: The Dense Observational Eye of Rebecca Ness in “Portraits of Place”

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Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco // March 08, 2024 – April 20, 2024

Since we first engaged with the works of Rebecca Ness during her time at Yale, you could see she was looking at the world from a different angle. She developed a density in her realistic paintings, looking at her friends and peers with a maximal and virtuoso command of a canvas. I remember seeing Ness’ works early on, these close-ups of hands, overhead views of desks and bodies, daily life examined with a keen eye. Over the past few years Ness’ lens has zoomed out, with social enviornments taking focus, whether it be friends’ studios or homes, her own domestic space, and even the spaces we take up in our personal lives. Though realistic in style, there is a fantasy view in each work, a place that feels familiar and real but has an identity of both a utopia and dream. 

Portraits of Place at Jessica Silverman Gallery feels like a perfect culmination of Ness’ skill set, layered and romantic scenes of bars, bike rides, bedrooms and bookstores. You can’t help but get engulfed in these worlds, as scale and nuance are abundant. And you follow a narrative. The bike shows up in numerous works, books are a thread, the self-portrait are part of the 7 paintings in this show. Nods to San Francisco break through. It is in these hints that you feel like Ness knows she is interacting with the viewer, giving us nuggets of selfhood, a play and a bit of humor with us, too. —Evan Pricco

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