Hilary Pecis charts new routes
through familiar terrain
By Kate Mothes
David Salle wrote in his seminal book How to See, that if “good art illustrates anything at all, it’s likely to be a story you didn’t even know needed telling.” Often the quotidian moments in familiar places go unnoticed; we don’t think much about the aesthetics of the grocery store we go to every week and we might stop considering the shape of the plants on the street corner that we pass every day on a jog. In Hilary Pecis’ body of work on view in Paths Crossed at David Kordansky Gallery, she portrays a tender portrait of America’s southwest landscapes.
Los Angeles is infamous for its congested highways and car-reliant infrastructure. Pecis takes regular jogs around her neighborhood, snapping photographs with her phone to document a range of suburban details like roof lines, lush greenery, and strip mall parking lots that contrast vast canyons and mountainous terrain apparently empty of human presence. The city’s sprawl has always existed in a tense relationship with its environment, abutting desert and wilderness where wildcats are occasionally seen prowling neighborhoods and residents strive to maintain boundaries. Paths Crossed draws inspiration from the trails that the artist runs, observing the complexities of her surroundings.
For more than half of the year, Los Angeles boasts clear, sunny skies, which Pecis depicts in a bright blue tinged with green. She amplifies the colors of each scene to counteract the way the bright light often washes out photographs. Underpinned by memory, Pecis’ paintings bear a universality, too, like the saturated hues of a postcard or the way we catalogue “snapshots” in our minds of vibrant landscapes. They reflect on being in open space, slowing down, observing tiny details like pebbles and succulent petals with intimate attention, or allowing a vista to elicit wonder, curiosity, and awe.
In an aesthetic redolent of detailed color-by-numbers, shapes rendered in opaque color are repeated and layered to create incidental lines, emphasizing the edges of foliage, signs, buildings, and rocky terrain. Capturing a moment in time, they also evoke a sense of timelessness: although devoid of figures, they suggest that someone may be sitting just beyond an open door or could be standing beside the viewer, taking in the lush garden or peering out across an expanse. Defined edges suggest an immediacy or—to return to David Salle—a “feeling of the eternal present.”
All images © Hilary Pecis, courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.
Header: Lily’s Backyard, 2023. Acrylic on linen, 74 x 64 x 1 5/8 inches