Estes belongs to a large tradition of artists who have painted the city of New York. It is famous for its urban landscapes of the Downtown and Upper West Side of Manhattan, which highlights its deep knowledge of the different buildings of the city, its infrastructure and its inhabitants. Although he was not born in New York, he has lived there for more than thirty years and continues to explore those that have become common points of reference in his work. Thus, for example, the Ansonia, a building of classic decorative style École des Beaux Arts, and the streets adjacent to it on the Upper West Side, constitute a favorite motif in the 1970s and are still present in paintings of the 1980s and 1990. The latter, as is natural, include the changes that have taken place in this environment, although this is secondary; the fundamental thing is that they show the maturity of Estes and his ability to reinvent continuously. What most interests the artist is not so much to capture the city but to manipulate its various structures and surfaces to explore specific pictorial approaches. The composition of its scenes of older streets is characterized by an inclined reflection that collects the street that is seen next to the picture reflected in a window located on the other side. More recently, it has expanded these urban landscapes, which now include several streets that move away at different angles. In both cases he invents methods to organize the space and make the viewer move within and through the complexity of the composition. These works have a geometric organization that, although it is suggested by the site, is the product of considerable spatial and compositional modifications. Because Estes does not imitate reality but, by means of a fluid and open pictorial process, constructs a world of vigorous clarity and rigorous order.
Estes paintings often present the juxtaposition of interior and exterior spaces, which can be seen in Nedick’s 1970. It is the first work in which the artist begins to expand his vision and imagery to go beyond an inspection next and directly from shop windows, windows and reflections. Estes began to evolve towards his photorealistic works of maturity with his compositions of reflections in car windows and polished metal surfaces. Then he raised the camera and focused on close-up views of shop windows, paying attention both to what was seen in the shop windows and to what was reflected in the moons.
In Nedick’s 1970, it shows for the first time an urban landscape that moves away from the left side of the composition. This is also a fundamental work in other aspects. The artist has chosen a theme that allows him to find and reflect reflections, not only on the surface of a shop window, but in mirrors that are six meters away inside the store. In the painting there are also areas in which the viewer can see through the windows of the shop window and the door the street and the most distant urban landscape. All this brings complexity and awakens in the artist the interest to face the artistic challenges that could be undertaken and tackled in the new decade. The shallow depth of the interior and the distance from the street already anticipate the creations of Estes in the 1980s and 1990s, when he divided his images into brief interiors of buses, trains and boats and extensive views of bridges, water surfaces and urban landscapes. . Throughout the seventies his position was strengthened as the first and main artist of the movement called Photorealism.
Telephone booths of 1967.
The starting point of the composition were several photographs taken from some telephone booths aligned, located at the confluence of Broadway, Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, which the artist combined and transformed to turn them into a pictorial motif. The complexity of the image responds to the characteristic realism of Estes, a realism that could be linked to the tradition of trompe l’oeil painting, for its intention to confuse and disconcert the viewer
People’s Flowers is an early, fundamental, well-known work and one of the best and most important compositions by Richard Estes. Its clarity, its color, its theme and its composition reveal that Estes is an absolutely mature and developed painter, at the head of the photorealistic movement at a time when almost all other artists were still striving to perfect their approaches and styles.