A recent large-scale painting by the acknowledged master of Photorealism, Richard Estes' Looking East on 31st Street from 8th Avenue continues the artist's inspection into urban life. This scene of New York, the city with which the artist is most associated, has a dramatic receding perspective as it reaches crosstown towards the iconic Chrysler building. The city is bathed in a raking light, which lights up the imposing buildings in the background and contrasts them with the shaded cars in the foreground.
There is a timeless quality to Estes, a stillness that he creates that is uniquely his own--often the only way to distinguish the date of his paintings is the make and model of the cars that are scattered throughout. Looking East... also contains the artist's trademark and incomparable painted reflections, most prominently in the hood of the blue Mercedes in the foreground, but, upon closer inspection, throughout many of the parked automobiles. Playfully, Estes has signed his name by assigning his initials and date of completion to the front license plate of the car next to the large lampost.
Estes' work has developed in subtle but signifcant ways since his breakthrough works of the late 1960s/early 1970s. As was noted in Louis Meisel's comprehensive survey of Photorealism, "The main advance as Estes moved through the eighties has been the expansion of his imagery into amazing panoramic urban views, seeming to encompass entire cities...in these works, and in his subway scenes and high panoramas, he invented a way to paint what appears to be two entirely different points of focus--the close-up and the distant panaorama--as part of one canvas. Neither the eye nor the camera can capture images in this way, but Estes convinces us that it can be done" (L. Meisel, Photorealism Since 1980, New York, 1993, p. 179).