Pecis creates drawings and paintings inspired by the interior, exterior, and inter-spaces that surround her daily life. For her first exhibition with David Kordansky Gallery, the artist presents a selection of lush, saturated landscapes reflecting the mountainous, desert, and urban landscapes commonly associated with Southern California.
Many of the paintings on view begin as source images taken on Pecis’s phone on her daily runs throughout Los Angeles’s streetscapes or through the various trails she frequents in the surrounding mountains and forests. The photos are then referenced and sometimes even printed out and re-imbued with dynamic and vibrant color, becoming preparatory sketches for future paintings. This process allows Pecis to distill whatever memory she has of a space while traveling through it, as the initial phone image often loses the clarity and vibrancy cast by the Southern California sunshine and mutes the otherwise bright hues that distinguish the region. By exploring a car-reliant city on foot, Pecis further attunes herself not only to the visual elements present—streets, mountains, storefronts, plants—but also to other non-visible elements: smells, sounds, textures, and the overwhelming energies and tensions that exist in a physical space.
Although she often revisits the same routes or paths, the changing of light throughout the seasons, the growth of new flora, and other indicators of passing time are inherently chronicled in Pecis’s paintings. Time is a recurrent and palpable theme in the artist’s work, not only in the idea of slowing down her gaze or pausing while moving through space to really see something, but also in her effort to catalogue a certain moment in time in a rapidly shifting environmental and economic landscape. In a city like Los Angeles, where the river levels oscillate drastically from day to day, so, too, do the openings and closures of businesses, the demolition and erection of buildings, the erosion of hillsides, and the ever-diversifying vegetation. In one example, Pecis depicts a salmon-colored wall with the words “Auto Body” barely visible atop an immense assortment of flowering shrubs, highlighting the organic way in which plant life reestablishes itself and eventually overpowers every open crevice in urban space.
The sequence of works in this exhibition is reflective of the artist’s continued engagement with modernist landscape painting. The consistent photographic documentation and recurrent landscapes that are inherent to Pecis’s project further strengthen her connection to artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, who was equally engaged in her environments on macro and micro scales and often depicted similar landforms in her paintings. This exhibition, for instance, sees Pecis revisiting a familiar vista of the Grand Canyon. Here the layered bands of the canyon—typically represented with shades of oranges and reds—are presented as a patchwork of shadow in deep blues, greys, and purples, paired with sun-kissed chartreuse, yellows, pinks, and browns. Weaving throughout the center of the painting is the lush green of the Colorado River, which bisects and helps localize the otherwise expansive view.
For Pecis, painting is an act that requires a foundation of trust in her own experiential memory. With each image, she brings the viewer along with her into these lush botanical, topographical, and urban terrains. By revisiting and retranslating her engagement with natural and built environments, Pecis’s work acts as a living document where each slight modification in perspective yields new, compelling narratives, shapes, lines, and compositions of otherwise familiar scenes. Whether a form is large or small in scale, natural or man-made, Pecis depicts it with the same level of detail—each pebble and mountain is given equal standing to every street sign and phone pole on the canvas. In this way, Pecis is a true documentarian as all these factors coalesce in her paintings to fully convey the emotive feelings present in her environs.
Hilary Pecis (b. 1979, Fullerton, California) has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at Rockefeller Center, New York (2021); Timothy Taylor, London (2021); Spurs Gallery, Beijing (2020); Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York (2020); and Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida (2019). Recent group exhibitions include 13 Women: Variation I, Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, California (2022–2023); Present Generations: Creating the Scantland Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2021); The Beatitudes of Malibu, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); FEEDBACK, The School at Jack Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook, New York (2021); L.A.: Views, Maki Gallery, Tokyo (2020); High Voltage, The Nassima-Landau Project, Tel Aviv, Israel (2020); and (Nothing but) Flowers, Karma, New York (2020). Her work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Aïshti Foundation, Beirut; and Yuz Museum, Shanghai. Pecis lives and works in Los Angeles.