JJ MURPHY GALLERY is pleased to present Farrell Brickhouse’s solo exhibition “Looking Back at Tomorrow,” opening Wednesday, April 17, 2024, from 6–8 PM. The show runs from April 18 to May 18. This represents the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City in ten years.

Memory plays an important role in Brickhouse’s visually poetic work. The title of the show refers to the artist’s penchant for returning to past experiences to engage more fully with the present and be able to create new forms. As Jason Stopa wrote about Brickhouse’s work in the Brookyln Rail, “These are works about what it means to be engaged in the present moment. They are some of the most intimate paintings of our time.”

In this latest body of work, certain subjects reoccur: fish, birds, water, dreams, flowers, seasons, human feet, and the circus. The paintings reflect the sheer wonder and mystery of the natural world. Early in his career, Brickhouse spent three years fishing in Montauk, at the eastern tip of Long Island. As he acknowledges, the experience of the sea had a profound effect on his subsequent life.

It is perhaps not surprising then that images of fish appear in a number of paintings, such as “Big Fish” (2022), in which a man holds a fish too big for the tank in front of him. “Rescue” (2023) features three speckle-colored figures collectively struggling to carry a large blue fish, while in “Big Fish 3,” two naked figures attempt to hold a gigantic fish above their heads as birds fly overhead. In other paintings, subjects offer various gifts, such as an armful of flowers. Monsters also occasionally make an appearance. According to Brickhouse, “I see in my own work an attempt to find imagery that can speak to these times full of mythic and monstrous forms.”

Brickhouse often works on a small scale, building up his canvasses with thick impasto that gives his work a strong sense of materiality. He cites the French artist Chaïm Soutine as creating intense moments through the movement of “paint being pushed into paint.” Brickhouse observes, “There is something so alive and sensuous about paint, this colored mush of ground minerals and oil.” The interplay between figuration and the thick surface creates a rich tension—a sense of vitality and immediacy—in the work. The heavily crusted still life “Summers End II” (2023) is part of a series he made from paint waste—leftover paint from students in his college painting class.

Farrell Brickhouse (born 1949) grew up in Queens and studied art at Queens College. Over a long career, he has had solo exhibitions at Julian Pretto Gallery, Max Protetch, Pamela Auchincloss, Life on Mars, Fred Giampietro Gallery, and John Davis Gallery. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, and Artforum. Brickhouse taught painting for many years at School of the Visual Arts (SVA) before retiring and eventually relocating to Hudson, New York.