John Loughery, Hudson Review

writing | catalog essays | reviews | letters

John Loughery, Hudson Review, volume L number 2, Summer 1997

…At the Tibor De Nagy Gallery in midtown, the first New York show of Philadelphia painter Stuart Shils was probably the most memorable gallery exhibition I saw last winter. Shils goes at his small canvases—or, rather, the primed paper he prefers—with an expertly controlled aggressiveness. Trees or fields barely hold onto their earthy qualities as fluid brushstrokes try to claim, or devour, them for their own purposes; blocky masses of paint suddenly declare themselves as rooftops of the walls of buildings. And all this is done on a scale (in the vicinity of ten inches by ten inches) that demands the closest inspection. The short catalogue essay invoked Corot at least four times, not to mention Constable, Kline, and Joan Mitchell, which was a little highfalutin in this context. The pleasures of the paintings had less to do with big – name antecedents than with a truculent approach to the current scene, aligned neither with realism (too much lustrous paint—as—paint here) nor abstraction (too many discernible objects even amid the heavy impasto). Neither purely a landscape artist—too many city vistas—nor letter -day Ashcan painter (the man is especially in love with green of every hue). Shils adopts an agreeably cocky stance to the art politics of the day, taking from—yet tweaking—all the other camps.