Victor Pesce, “Turn of the shoe,” 2009, oil on canvas, 18″ x 24 1/8″
Victor Pesce, “Coffee pot on a shelf,” 2009, oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x12-1/8″
Victor Pesce, “Harbor 3,” 2009, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 ” x 30″
Victor Pesce, “Harbor 2,” 2009, oil on canvas, 12″ x 16 1/8″
Victor Pesce, a New York still life painter who favored spare arrangements of discarded objects and brooding color, died on March 28 at his home in Sharon, Conn. of lung cancer. At 71, he had just completed his final show at Elizabeth Harris, his wife’s gallery in Chelsea. I feel as though I was just getting to know his quietly remarkable work, so I’m sorry to learn he has died. Here’s an excerpt from the obituary Roberta Smith wrote in the NY Times:
“Mr. Pesce’s first paintings were in the style of the Abstract Expressionists. He then took up more Expressionistic figurations, followed by portraits that were often inspired by poets and their work. From the beginning he restricted his colors and painted methodically with a loaded brush. His portraits, based on images from newspapers and books, became increasingly close cropped, rendering the faces nearly abstract.
“Mr. Pesce had his first solo show at Fashion Moda in the Bronx in 1981. He met Ms. Harris, who was also a painter at the time, when she visited his studio on the Bowery in Manhattan in 1980. They were married in 1982. In 1983, he began showing at her gallery, then known as the Oscarsson-Hood Gallery. Ms. Harris changed its name to her own when she decided to give up painting.
“Besides his wife, Mr. Pesce is survived by his sister, Marie Pesce, who lives in Florida.
“By the 1990s Mr. Pesce had turned to small still lifes that perfectly split the difference between representation and abstraction and reflected his preference for early American modernists like Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley over the Abstract Expressionists.
“He painted arrangements of boxes and bottles that were stripped of detail and usually constructed from a few planes of color that together defined the wall and the tabletop and whatever object was sitting on it. Though often compared to Giorgio Morandi’s pared-down still lifes, Mr. Pesce’s paintings are more forthrightly geometric and grander in scale; space, paint and object achieve an equal density yet remained distinct. Their repeating boxes can evoke those of the Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd.
“Mr. Pesce’s palette was dark, rich and implicitly naturalistic but sparked by moments of yellow-green, hot pink or a resonant blue. To eliminate reflections, he usually painted the objects themselves before making the paintings. Sometimes he built the small boxes he was portraying, giving them crenellated profiles that made them look useless and artificial, as if they existed for the sake of painting alone, which they did.”