Las Vegas Sun
Putting pleasure on a pedestal
New York artist’s exhibit is a celebration of life’s sensual side
There’s nothing quite like a busty lady popping out of a cake. It’s historically romanticized — naughty, yet wholesome, sort of like the peep show of yore, a once idealized dirtiness, now outdated and replaced by that which is raw and hard-core.
Teasing, it seems, is passe in a world riddled with 24-hour extreme porn.
A lost art, really. You could say the same of figurative painting in an era of conceptual, digital and mixed-media art installations. It’s not entirely lost, but most certainly it has lost ground.
Jeff Britton, then, is giving us a double whammy with his exhibit, “Guilty Pleasures,” at Trifecta Gallery through Jan. 30.
The sexually charged yet thoughtful and tender show mixes works that Britton pulled from his ample collection of landscapes, cityscapes, still lifes and portraits.
There is plenty of sex, candy and other sensual indulgences, but it comes across as playful and nostalgic and the somewhat whimsical subject matter makes for a nice contrast against Britton’s painterly style, inspired by his love of 19th century masters such as Courbet, Manet, van Gogh and Monet.
His “Girl Sandwich” has you thinking Franz Marc. “Lust” evokes Toulouse-Lautrec.
“The Strip,” painted from the 27th floor of Treasure Island, is unlike any other Vegas cityscape. Las Vegas Boulevard looks warm and urbane under a black sky, rather than ephemeral and faux glamorous. The vibrant colors are made with rich, luscious strokes.
Britton, 50, lives in Brooklyn but shares a studio with his girlfriend in Los Angeles. He paints every day. It’s a career and lifestyle he chose after discovering a book on the old masters while in college on a basketball scholarship. His job as a preparator for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation gives him plenty of access to such works. If he’s not handling $50 million paintings, he’s off to a museum in China or Spain. In Moscow recently, for example, he was able to see works by Russian realists and two of his favorite painters, Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov.
Marty Walsh, owner of Trifecta Gallery, met Britton when he was in Las Vegas taking out the work when the Guggenheim Hermitage closed and he strolled into her gallery. Britton noticed the work of Tim Folzenlogen with whom he’d been in a group exhibit at the Alan Stone Gallery. Before too long, Walsh had him planning a show in Las Vegas.
Britton sees “Guilty Pleasures” as a way to celebrate small painterly works, rather than some of the 20-foot contemporary canvases he hangs professionally.
And he’s not just spilling his mind. “Guilty Pleasures” captures universal desires and places sexuality in a safe, clever and somewhat humorous context. A dense, creamy cupcake is as tempting and eye-widening as a voluptuous redhead seen through a key hole.
Britton paints toys as a way to take the edge off the seriousness of painting landscapes. Thus, we have “Doll,” a ladylike, blue-eyed, blinking, red haired doll wearing only her little blue shoes, raising her arms against a pale yellow background.
In a tiny painting titled “Peep Show,” we’re among the silhouettes in the crowd. We’re familiar with the spilled candy, the half-eaten apple and the toys, posed in precarious positions.
“We’re all human,” he says. “We all have the same dreams, wants and desires, whatever level that falls on.”
By Kristen Peterson
Wed, Jan 7, 2009