George Adams Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of four large-scale, portrait paintings by Jack Beal, Gregory Gillespie, Alfred Leslie, and James Valerio. All four paintings on view are portraits of other artists: the Beal his wife the sculptor Sondra Freckelton; Gillespie the painter Robin Freedenfeld; Leslie the choreographer Gretchen McLaine; and Valerio four of his art students at Northwestern.
The painting Sondra and Table #2 is one of a series of portraits Beal made of Freckelton between 1963 and 1973. Unlike the naturalistic earlier portraits that emphasized sensuality, this work's gives no hint as to the identity of the sitter, while its reductive use color and flattened space betrays an unexpected appreciation for abstraction and design. In contrast to the Beal, Gillespie's portrait of Robin Freedenfeld enthusiastically embraces Italian Renaissance mannerisms and technique. Gillespie includes references to his subject's identity as a painter while also indulging himself with inclusions of small, mysterious and grotesque figures set into the background landscape. Alfred Leslie's approach combines dynamic composition and scale; the figure fills the foreground of the seven-foot tall painting, with narrative details that, like Gillespie, identify his sitter as a choreographer. Valerio, who here adopts Leslie's conceit of lighting his subjects from below as well as his bold use of scale, also references other artistic predecessors. The grouping of figures around a light source set against a dark ground recalls, for example, the paintings of Georges de la Tour.