One Hundred Still Life Paintings, 1947-2019: A Retrospective • Alfredo Roces

Feb 15 to Mar 8, 2019 • Tall Gallery

Still life—that once humble genre of painting—is now an assertive force of figuration, attuned to the times. With humanity’s loss of faith on grand narratives, objects present themselves as epigraphs of intimacy, the telltale evidence of a life: a fruit cut open by a seaside balcony, a pair of stilettos against a darkened window, the preparatory ingredients of a meal.

Alfredo Roces, who has devoted himself to attending to the small-scale, the ordinary, the magisterially short-lived, paints with the devotion of a poet. He is not merely an illustrator of objects, but a singer of shapes and surfaces. At once elegies and odes, his works both praise and lament the intractable lives of perishable things.

Each painting is a life stilled in the attention of the moment, kissed with light or exuding its own glow. Seen from different vantage points, the object as subject crystallizes perception. We see them as the artist wishes us to see: the glinting crown of apples, the luminous seeds of papaya crowding the fruit, the shadowed mouths of vases.

And yet, something else transpires, how the figure and the ground circle together to become an almost continuous shimmering plane. It is as if the object activates the space around it. Perhaps, the opposite is also true: the space rushes toward the object as some kind of magnetic pull. The variegated blue, for instance, that surrounds a hibiscus, charges the luscious bloom with something akin to electricity.

A retrospective of still lifes Roces painted in the span of seven fruitful decades, the exhibition is a veritable archive of life’s plenitude that is held, eaten, celebrated, seen up close, or admired from a distance. As viewers, we are invited to a banquet of objects whose forms are apperceived and what we see is the essential quality of the thing. This is Alfredo Roces’ moveable feast.

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