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Nino Mier Gallery presents Sand Canyon, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Jake Longstreth presented in Marfa, Texas as part of a special annex of the Marfa Invitational Art Fair. Longstreth is well-known for his atmospheric landscapes of Southern California that capture the region’s natural topography in a bright, bathing light. Longstreth marries a stark, contemporary realism with a landscape painter’s sensitivity to mood and tone. For Sand Canyon, the artist has created landscapes on such a massive scale, the viewer becomes immersed in an arid Californian diorama. 

The artist’s distinct style is epitomized by the backdrop of slightly smoggy, softly gradated skies in his iconic renderings of eucalyptus and pine trees.  Eschewing the famous palm trees of the LA area, Longstreth prefers the more ubiquitous and oft overlooked eucalyptus and pines that populate the region’s landscape. A foreboding and piercing light underscores the artist’s attention to bleaker aspects of the idyllic environs: hanging smog, raking shadows, sunbaked earth, and burnt branches surrounding the ancient bodies of looming, giant trees. 

For Sand Canyon, the sheer scale of the works places the viewer within the tableau of the scenery, capturing a cinematic sense of place.  Longstreth wanted to paint pine trees that approached life size and indeed the width of the trunk and length of the pine needles of Sand Canyon (Pine 1), does just that.  Highly realistic from a distance, a closer look reveals how subtly stylized the paintings are: repetitive, combs of brush strokes form into fans of pine needles, s-shaped marks layer together as dappled eucalyptus leaves, various flat planes and lines fit like puzzle pieces into craggy pine bark.

Although the scenery is specific in its depiction of Southern California, the artist confesses that the Sand Canyon shown in these paintings does not exist. It is instead a name taken from a song title. His paintings are, after all, created inside his east side Los Angeles studio. They are composites of reality and memory.  Scenes of nature are tacked on his studio walls: from various photographs, his own sketches, beloved picture books or found online imagery.  These fragments of his particular reality inform the paintings, yet the landscapes for Sand Canyon are formed in Longstreth’s head.  Conceived from a lifetime of collected memory, but wholly borne with a paintbrush.