Blog featuring artwork of Wes Freese

Patti Oleon Paintings

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My favorite, favorite, favorite painter right now is Patti Oleon.  Her rich, visually succulent paintings are a sight to behold, not only for their stunning imagery and high contrast of lights and darks, but also the veneer of their painted surface.  This is what painting is at it’s best.  The physicality of their painted surface should be a delight for anyone, but most of all for painters who love the process of creating paintings.


Oleon’s nostalgic paintings touch on memory, time and the illusion of captured imagery.  Their seductiveness is unparalleled in contemporary painting. In a statement Oleon writes that her imagery is of “liminal environment(s), suggesting that even the most lucid presentation of facts is distorted, incomplete, provisional.”  Her work utilizes photographs of “hotel lobbies, period rooms in museums, spaces contrived to look habitable but resolutely lacking human presence” which suggest places within memory, that evaporate with time.   These stylized places transcend geographic location, that can’t be found on Google Earth or some GPS device, and seem more like a stage perhaps for some Stanley Kubrick purgatory or publicly ceremonial function.


Oleon’s work denies much of the history of Modern Art painting in the twentieth century, as if it never existed.  These paintings make Clement Greenburg and the whole New York School over the past sixty or so years seem childish, despite their claims to high art and mysticism.  These are the works that should be documenting the history of American civilization in the early twenty-first century, not the works being exhibited in the Whitney Biennials of the last couple of years.  Ours is a dark, highly stylized age, it’s citizens perceiving some American identity that no longer exists, while they look back trying to reclaim that which only resides in memory and can never return.  This is painting at it’s very best, if you ask me.  Indeed, Patti Oleon is one of the best painters in America right now.



Written by Wes Freese

February 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm

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  1. […] previously posted some personal reflections on Patti’s work here.  Over the summer I posed some questions to Patti about her work and received some thoughtful […]

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