Common ground

By GREG COOK  |  March 12, 2014

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EVOCATIVE Hastings's 'Colleen.'
“Selfies & Friends: Contemporary Portraiture,” at Cade Tompkins Projects (198 Hope St, Providence, through March 29), rounds up eight painters and sculptors to consider portraiture in our moment when cameras are in devices in everyone’s pockets.

Much fine art of the past century has been, in part, driven by seeking something else to do after photography supplanted painting’s role as a realist record of people. Today’s proliferation of cameras has art photographers themselves unsettled. Facebook, as Alec Soth said in 2009, then had “550,000 images each second being uploaded. . . How do I function as a photographer in that environment?”

Here Aaron Gilbert’s painting of a couple cuddling atop a towncar at night and Julie Gearan’s painting of a couple skating across a misty pond feel dream-like. Suzanne Schireson’s self-portrait is part Belle Époque/Cecilia Beaux confection, part contemporary studio academicism. Buck Hastings’s portraits have been more interesting as they move from deadpan realism into evocative darkness — the profile of a man silhouetted against a sunny landscape, or Colleen with her face behind a veil of pink and gray dots. Against the headlong rush of images, these artists seem to take their time.

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