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There are modes of Realism in which the depiction of concrete detail is so concentrated - and so obsessive - that the visual result bears a distinct esthetic kinship to pictorial abstraction. Richard Britell's paintings at the Gallery, are a particularly vivid example of this phenomenon. Mr. Britell's subject matter is drawn from the world of pre-modernist architecture. What he focuses on are brick facades, stonework structures and the elegant decorative embellishments that were once a standard feature of the gothic revival, neo-classical and other historicist styles of American urban architecture. These he depicts with a great deal of pictorial force. Only rarely, however, does the imagery in Mr. Britell's paintings offer us much in the way of social documentary - or social commentary. (The broken window that we glimpse in a brick facade in the painting called ''Bank Row, Syracuse,'' for example, is unusual.) It is the design element in this architecture that interests him - the density and regularity of its formal detail, say, or the handling of light and shadow in conception of a complex outdoor structure. Often the facade of a building is observed in the kind of close-up view that becomes, in effect, the equivalent of a geometrical abstract painting. He is particularly good at painting brickwork, stone window frames and decorated entrances. He has a very analytical eye, and he commands an impressive technique. If there is also an element of nostalgia in these paintings, it isn't particularly bothersome. After all, we all have ample reason to cherish this architecture today, and Mr. Britell's homage to it proves wholly equal to its quality. Hilton Kramer New York Times
Painting:Oil on Canvas
Size:30 W x 40 H x 1.5 D in
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