For nearly two decades, Nigel Van Wieck has been evolving a distinctive idiom firmly rooted in the tradition of American realism. His small-format oils offer glimpses of classic Americana: racetracks and baseball fields, toy sailboats skimming over a pond, tourists relaxing on sun-drenched beaches. Typically his are solitary figures, often recalling the loners once celebrated by Edward Hopper, and though there is no Hopperesque gloom here, at moments there emerges a vague sense of the ominous. In Dog Days, Van Wieck consciously plays on the classic Hopper scenario of a corner shop with one side in luminous light, the other in deep shadow—the whole underscored by a solitary figure caught between the two realms.
In Escape, which lent its title to this presentation of 23 works (all 2010), Van Wieck offers a variation on the light-dark theme, with a skateboarder about to plunge from a field of glowing pastel tones into inky blackness. In such semi-allegorical compositions, Van Wieck moves beyond nostalgia to explore painterly issues of light and shade, of framing, and of color itself as a vibrant, independent force. The scenes recorded here are frequently captured in uncommon perspectives. Enjoying the in Between presents the lions flanking the staircase to the New York Public Library, seen at an oblique angle from the rear.
For all their reportorial air, the works have become increasingly reduced and abstracted, while the thin, washlike use of oils suggests a delicacy and fragility often associated with watercolor. Their intimate formats seem to vibrate with an inner life, lending additional resonance to that poetry of the commonplace that is Van Wieck’s specialty.