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Richard Estes

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Richard Estes (b. 1932, Kewanee, IL) is a pioneering figure of the Photorealist movement, best known for his paintings and prints of urban American landscapes that often incorporate imagery found on reflective surfaces such as windows, cars, or water. His highly finished compositions, which are each based off of dozens of photographs, have been described as abstract realism. Estes is interested in the formal elements of architecture, infrastructure, and other urban imagery, such as flat color and line.

Estes studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York to work as a graphic designer for a number of magazines and advertising firms. He began painting full-time in the mid-1960s while living in Spain. His first solo exhibitions happened concurrently in 1968 at Allan Stone Gallery in New York and the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.

In 1971, Estes began investigating printmaking as an outlet for his hyperrealist style. His process involved creating a design for his print in gouache and acrylic which he then photographs. This photograph is then used in a time-consuming screen printing process that includes a wide range of colors and tonal modulations that signal the artist’s mastery of the medium.  In 1981, he began a highly ambitious project of eight silkscreen prints that used almost 50 colors.

His early paintings depicted storefronts, cityscapes, and architecture during the day in a hyper-realist style, though he took artistic license to remove debris and weather elements, such as snow. Estes’ paintings are minute studies of light and detail that serve as a magnifying glass, bringing to focus aspects of urban landscapes that would otherwise escape notice. In this way, he interrogates the oft-assumed linearity between reality and vision. Later in his career, he introduced depictions of night cityscapes.

His work is included in major public collections, among them Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, AR; Fine Arts Museum, CA; Ludwig Museum, HU; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museo Botero, CO; Museum Ludwig, DE; Museum Moderner Kunst , AT; Museum of Contemporary Art, IL; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museo Thyssen, ES; Museum voor Realisma, NL; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Portland Art Museum, OR; Portland Museum of Art, ME; San Antonio Museum of Art, TX; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Tate Gallery, UK; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Ar, IR; Walker Art Center, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

Estes’ work has recently been included in solo and group exhibitions at the Drents Museum (2017), Kunsthalle Emden (2017), Museum of Art and Design (2015), Portland Museum of Art (2014), Mana Contemporary (2014), Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (2013), Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (2012), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (2012), Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville (2012), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2012) and the Palazzo Magnani (2007).