first published in Juxtapoz, October 25, 2018
Hilary Pecis, “Favorite Vase”, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in., 2018.
Hilary Pecis’ Familiar View in San Francisco
Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco
September 29 – November 24, 2018
Paint what you know seems an anachronistic chestnut in an age of immediate interconnectedness, when way too much information is just a click or two away. This makes an intimate peek at a circumscribed existence seem suddenly, intensely poignant. Hilary Pecis’ choice to spotlight scenes of daily life in and among her closest objects, experiences, and environs seem all the more vital and essential to viewers bombarded by garish news events and global crises. In her paintings, Pecis gives us permission to appreciate the ephemeral beauty of a prickly lettuce, the lingering laughter of a shared meal, and the sweet solitude of an open book.
Pecis’s show at Guerrero Gallery, Familiar View, presents a body of work she has been exhibiting since relocating to Los Angeles from San Francisco in January of 2014, namely beautifully-rendered still lifes and outdoor vignettes of her new surroundings. The exhibition follows critically acclaimed shows at a number of galleries on the East Coast, including Rachel Uffner Gallery (New York), Halsey McKay Gallery (East Hampton), and Joshua Liner Gallery (New York).
Hilary Pecis, “A Good Meal”, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 in., 2018.
When Pecis left the Bay Area for Los Angeles, she and her husband were raising their young son, not even two years old at the time. Pecis’s home and neighborhood became the backdrop — a surrogate artist studio of sorts. The paintings are, in effect, the results of being tethered closer to home. Rather than stage a still-life, Pecis finds rich subject matter in the rhythms of domestic experience, imbuing the everyday with richer meaning. She transforms what may once have seemed prosaic to an illustration that beauty is a matter of looking closely. It is the eye, not the object, that holds the power. Pecis extends that power to her viewers. Her careful gaze becomes ours and we feel the better for the alchemy that turns still life into life study.
Honesty, transparency, tenderness, and kindness towards the things that surround us. These reminders matter. Though not a single human form appears in this work, humanity is everywhere, whether in signage or simply through awareness of the painter’s keener way of looking. “Hecho en Mexico” on a Coke bottle on a festive table cloth remind us we’re close to our southern neighbor. The mind may wander not only to those who’ve just pushed away from the table, but to the laborers who bottled the soda, trucked it across the border, and who likely have family members bound up in the immigration debate that rages far beyond the edge of the canvas. Another sign reads “NO PRIVATE BOATS OR CRAFTS” amid a mountain-lake image that’s the very picture of why public lands should be preserved doesn’t necessarily require the mind to stray, but invites that possibility.
Hilary Pecis, “Graffiti Cactus”, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 22 in., 2018.
Sometimes, even in the landscapes, Pecis’s scrutiny captures the essential subject, hidden or lurking just beneath the surface. It’s plain to see, but our eyes are conditioned to ignore the presence of things that don’t exactly belong. Pecis paints that moment so that we may look more closely.
In “Graffiti Cactus” she doesn’t just capture the nuance of the grey toned plant, and the fruit springing from its edges, her eye (and brush) capture the carved names on a cactus leaf, which become a contemporary postcard about romance and delinquency. In “Nasturtiums” she does the same with the outdoor faucet head with it’s blue wheel handle. It’s right there, yet it’s the sort of thing we might miss. Pecis elevates the mundane object by making it worthy of our heightened attention.
Hilary Pecis, “Nasturtiums”, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 in., 2018.
The focus on these seemingly unworthy objects has the practical effect of continuing Pecis’s concern with narrative. In many instances, one can discern the actors in the mid-moment drama. For a few years before 2012, Pecis harvested digital elements for her collage work, drawing directly from the oversaturation of internet media. Now she walks back that visual scramble, but the story remains ever present and even more lyrical.
So what does it mean to hold in reverence the simplicity and purity of the quotidian, while also allowing for deep investigation of human motivation and need? It means that Pecis achieves something powerful and necessary. A love for every detail of what she holds dear, and in that reverence, a subtle but fierce defense of what must not be lost. These paintings are an invitation, not only to know the artist better, but ourselves in turn.
Hilary Pecis, “Books”, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20 in., 2018.
A total of 13 acrylic on canvas works comprise the majority of the exhibition, the largest measuring 60 x 48 inches, with four smaller landscapes, color pencil on paper works, all 12 x 9 inches. The show runs through November 24th at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco. Maria Guzman Capron exhibits vibrant oil on canvas works along with sculpture figures made of wire, batting, fabric, thread, and yarn in the upstairs space.
–Tamsin Smith & Matt Gonzalez
Hilary Pecis, “Glen Rock”, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 22 in., 2018.
Hilary Pecis, “Candles”, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 in., 2018.
Hilary Pecis, “Glass Lake”, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 in., 2018.
Hilary Pecis, “Favorite Vase”, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in., 2018 (with details).
Hilary Pecis, “Familiar Views”
Guerrero Gallery, 1465 Custer Avenue, San Francisco
September 29 – November 24, 2018