I've always been a bit annoyed when pundits of any stripe proclaim "The Year of the (insert noun here)," especially when the year is just getting started. However, while I might be loath to declare 2012 "The Year of the Impressionist," it's safe to say that with the recent founding of the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society, it should be a big year around here for the style and those who work in it.
So, in keeping with that, let's make R. Gregory Summers our first featured artist of the new-look ARTKC365. Summers is showing through Jan. 25 at the Shawnee Mission West Patrons Gallery in Overland Park, and the space is a nice fit for Summers' oil paintings. There's plenty of good light in the gallery, which brings out the details in the plein air works.
(Parenthetical 1: I'm rather abashed to say that while the gallery has been open since 2008, tonight's opening was the first time I've been there. I'm banking on it being the first of many. You should check it out, too; it's on the lower level and open during school hours, meaning you'll need to check in at the office before checking out the art.)
(Parenthetical 2: The Weather Channel was talking tonight about the winners and losers in this warm winter. Given that Summers was out this afternoon painting the view east from Strawberry Hill, I'd say plein air painters are among the winners.)
Back to the show. Start to your right as you enter the space, work your way around counterclockwise, and you'll get to see the progression of Summers' work from early days to this current dry gray-and-tan season.
Throughout the show, even in the single "staged" piece (unless there are cello ranchers out there that I've never heard about), Summers' work shows an easy intimacy with his subject matter and surroundings. Nothing looks contrived. Yes, that's something you'd expect from open-air painting, but the human tendency is to fudge sometimes and make things just a little more picturesque.
None of that here, to my eye. Yes, there's interpretation here. That goes along with the whole Impressionist thing. But Summers' is a faithful translation, true to his sources, and that shows in every canvas.
Yep ... first impressions are that it's going to be a very good year ...