We are pleased to present Carl Bretzke’s 2nd Annual Solo Show at the Grenning Gallery, on Saturday May 9th, 2020. A virtual opening reception will take place from 5:30 – 7:00 pm, the first half hour exclusive for our VIP clients, and then opens to the public from 6pm- 7pm.
((ZOOM meeting ID 876-0437-7831, password 842-568))
Bretzke’s work effectively blurs the line between feelings of intimacy and remoteness through his choice of subject matter; humans, animals, and structures, existing within desolate settings. The mood of each painting is expertly conveyed through the use of both natural AND artificial light sources.
Carl Bretzke (b. 1954, Minnesota) returns to the Grenning Gallery this year with his original, yet refined interpretation of American life. Classically trained, and driven to paint directly from nature, Bretzke’s images encapsulate his observations of the subtle emotions roiling within each scene. Cinematic yet gritty, some have likened his work to that of Edward Hopper, for putting his finger on that somewhat melancholic feeling found in celebrated American realism.
Juxtaposing a real-life, city structure beside a glorious landscape that Man vs. Nature conflict found throughout American culture, is presented with moody tonalism. For instance, Bretzke’s “7-Eleven Sunset” depicts one of the only active national commercial chains in the village of Sag Harbor, but its signage and lights are trumped by the backlit flaming hot sky where the sun has just slipped below the horizon. This image immediately brings to mind Hopper’s 1929 painting “Railroad Sunset”; where a bright-rainbow-coloredsky- view is obstructed by a tower from a railroad station, a man-made building; prompting us to acknowledge man’s presence within (and subservient to) this dazzling earth.
In “Nocturnal Rain” by Carl Bretzke, we can see a range between the natural darkness of earths sky, and the golden areas of artificial incandescence. Although the subject is darkness, the entirety of the painting is lucent luminescent. Painting at night, or painting a “nocturne”, is not a contemporary idea. Artists have been attempting to master the dark colors of nightfall for centuries. However, due to technological advances in light sources and the science of optics, a contemporary artist has the most knowledge on how many colors can be seen in different types of light. In the 1909 painting “Summer Night, Riverside Drive” by the famous American painter, George Bellows, the only area of the painting that is intelligible is within range of the single lamppost along the boardwalk. The rest of the painting is completely black in abstraction.
In “When Dogs Run Free” we see Bretzke playing with his now in-depth knowledge of the color of different lights in a nocturne. In one of the finest local landscapes – he has captured the warmth of the store light, against the brilliance of the setting sun sky often seen behind Main Street in Sag Harbor. However, he has also added an unleashed dog wandering across the green light cast by a rare streetlight in town. This enriches his investigation of the colors of the light during that late twilight time with an evocative, somewhat lonely narrative that is precisely American.
Finally, in this strange time of sheltering in place, "Bungalow Comfort" epitomizes the feeling of hunkering down against the outside elements. Here, Bretzke beautifully modernizes the classic tonalist theme of the warm interior light emanating from a home amidst a cool and dark exterior. George Inness, in the late 19th century painted backlit cabins, often on the edge of the woods, to convey the small presence of man within nature. Here Bretzke adds a car skidding across the foreground, and the repeating roof lines next door, placing us in a suburban setting, bringing this old format up to date. He is still curious about the color of light, comparing the white streetlight in the background to the warm light from inside the home. The net result is that we are left with that comforting feeling of being safe at home, safe from the danger out there.