Yes Jim Peters: 251 W 19th St
Ethan Cohen Gallery presents Yes Jim Peters, a solo show by one of the rare leading painters of our time. In 1985 he was featured by the Guggenheim as a top young artist of the time. Since then he has appeared in numerous museum exhibitions and has been reviewed by such luminaries as the poet/critic John Yau and the great novelist James Salter. His last solo retrospective was at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum in 2013. A veteran teacher at several elite art colleges, he currently teaches in the Experimental Foundations Studies Department at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Peters came to painting later in life than most. In the 1960s, he got a degree in Atomic Physics at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and went on to study Nuclear Engineering at MIT. He then served on the aircraft carrier CVA67, the John F. Kennedy. As such, he is one of those singular artists who sacrificed a fully successful mainstream life to devote himself unsparingly to art. Not just as a practice but as a discipline of living, a kind of austere immersion in sensual experience and observation, a dark monasticism of intimacy. Like much of his work down the years, this show consists largely of depictions of nudes, often of the female form, often presented in clutter-strewn rooms with exhausted beds and exfoliating wall-paint. Sometimes, a photograph is blended into the scene. Sometimes, the scene is not on canvas but in a boxy 'construction' of wood-parts and found materials, a raw accidental doll-house of realism.
To those who might denigrate his vision as demeaning for its 'male gaze' and the 'objectification' of women, he has a ready riposte. “It is not just about the female nude,” he says, “I'm always telling the story of a relationship, in collaboration with my wife (artist and writer Kathline Carr). There are many paintings, drawings and photos with male and female nudes, pieces about desire, arguments, rest, two cups of coffee.” This collaboration arises out of a “constant dialogue with her” at all levels, from the physical to the artistic. Indeed, one of her works features centrally in the show as well as several other of their collaborative pieces. His frequent use of thick dark impasto oils combines a tactility of texture, a kind of eroticism of brushwork, with the sense that the visible body is always emerging and receding, dancing, flirting with the background darkness of the imagination. These are not still-life nudes but are composed freely from the imagination. They are also about the consciousness and about the process of painting and creating from the cusp of experience.