October 20, 2013

Art review: Jeff Epstein and Henry Isaacs

Painting still has a lot to say about how we see

By Daniel Kany

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

“Subaru with Hosta at NIght” by Jeff Epstein.

Courtesy of Caldbeck Gallery

“The Space Between” by Jeff Epstein.

Courtesy of Caldbeck Gallery

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Art House Picture Frames, 61 Pleasant St., Portland

WHEN: Through Nov. 30

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

INFO: arthousepictureframes.com; 221-3443


WHERE: Gleason Fine Art, 545 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through Nov. 30

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

INFO: gleasonfineart.com; 633-6849

THE MAINE ARTIST whose color work mobilizes the most forceful distinctions between color and light now also has a show in Portland: Henry Isaacs.

Isaacs combines the painterly joy of Matisse with the value and surface integrity of Cezanne. (That might like sound like soaring praise, but acknowledging masters doesn’t put you above anyone.)

Isaacs is a great colorist, but he is even more dedicated to pushing paint around on the canvas. This is easier to see in person than to explain, but color is only one of Isaacs’s key elements, which include: texture, opacity, transparency, overlap, glazing, scumbling, brushmarks, paint build-up and – above all – value relationships.

Isaac’s “View to Mt Desert from the Marsh” is a vertical seascape looking past plants rendered in saturated greens, purples, oranges, pinks and other bright colors. On the show postcard, flora sparkle with color before a sky with virtually no material presence at all. In person, the negative space of the sky dominates the picture as the thickly-painted creamy clouds and buttery sunlight reach over the edges of the plants to re-carve their shapes from above.

This kind of thick and chewy density is a rare thing; most of the time that much paint feels piled-on. Like Epstein, a close look makes you realize the fresh-feeling Isaacs makes very well-considered paintings; and there is no doubt about the extraordinary time and energy Isaacs puts into his work.

Epstein’s and Isaacs’s paintings reveal real depth of conception, technique and consideration of the viewer experience. This last point is crucial because these artists remind us that painters often consciously respond to our tech-age visual sensibilities that PMA director Mark Bissier described at a public forum on Oct. 8th as “more intelligent than ever.”

It seems that the more imagery and design we consume, the more painting has to say about how we see. 

Freelance writer and art historian can be contacted at:


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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“Bluebird Nest Box April” by Jeff Epstein.

Courtesy of Gleason Fine Art

click image to enlarge

“Path to Bunker Cove” by Henry Isaacs.

Courtesy of Gleason Fine Art

click image to enlarge

“View to Mt. Desert from the Marsh,” by Henry Isascs.

Courtesy of Gleason Fine Art

click image to enlarge


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