Richard Estes is the king of Photo-Realism. With Canaletto-esque precision, he painstakingly creates fine, detailed paintings of the modern urban streetscape that are, even close-up, unnervingly photographic. Using opaque projectors, slides and panoramic lenses to solve problems of perspective and distortion, Estes creates a highly complex, composite view that heightens reality in a way that is impossible to achieve in a single photograph, but which gives the illusion of freezing a split second. But Estes' work is not just about clever visual trickery. It is where he points his lens that makes his work so arresting and, in spite of the explicit detail, enigmatic.
J&H Grocery is a highly detailed example of the famous Urban Landscapes that Estes began in 1967. These works are rooted in his earlier Car Reflections paintings, which were based on photographs produced by aiming a camera down into the windshields of cars to capture the distorted images of faces and buildings. The work incorporates Estes' favorite subject: New York City. His paintings, though based on direct photographic recording, reveal the artist's passion for the everyday visual experience of the City.
As John Perreault wrote of Estes' work: "The virtual absence of people allows the artist, and the viewer, to concentrate on the streetscape itself: the architecture, the storefronts, the street furniture, the parked cars, the signage, and the reflections within reflections that compound space and crystallize the unpolluted, dustless, almost palpable New York City light. In many ways, Estes' New York is an ideal city: always fall or always spring, no slush or grime. And everything is in miraculous, preternatural focus" (J. Perreault, Richard Estes, in L. K. Meisel, Richard Estes: The Complete Paintings 1966-1985, New York, 1986, p. 11). J&H Grocery is a reconfiguration of the city into a magical place, rich in optical splendor.