Vincent Crotty, 2010
“Dorchester Winter Sunshine”
Oil Paintings by Vincent Crotty
“Café Dot 2 Dot Café”
1739 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA
February 25 to April 17, 2010
Vincent Crotty’s recent oil paintings combine two venerable traditions, “Plein Air” painting and American urban realism. Recording the back alleys and dark streets of American cities dates back to the New York “Ash Can School.” In his exhibition Dorchester Winter Sunshine Crotty records his home locale, one of Boston’s working class neighborhoods, a community with similarities to the “Southie” depicted in the movie, Good Will Hunting. The traditional “romantic” mood of “Plein Air” painting never clouds Crotty’s realistic scenes. Few people are visible in his work, but we sense the hard-work ethic, the economic struggle and even the despair and loneliness of Boston’s less famous neighborhood in these paintings. Crotty does not paint the more organized street-front facades of triple-deckers, but their tumbly-down back porches and one car garages with driveways filled with old, slushy snow. We don’t need to see the residents to know their back-stories. (For the uninitiated out-of-town viewer, a “triple-decker” is a three story wooden structure that houses one family on each floor.)
In small format, frequently 6 inches by 6 inches, Crotty’s compositions employ patches of brilliant sunshine falling across triple-deckers or abandoned brick factories to create geometric patterns. Edward Hopper immediately comes to mind in several of these small vignettes. But in others, Crotty takes on gritty scenes Hopper would never touch, such as the “Draw Bridge on Granit Avenue.” Having personally driven over this ugly, derelict bridge many times, I would never imagine it as an object worthy of aesthetic recognition. Yet Crotty makes it a strong geometric shape against the sky and water.
Crotty packs in many details of the houses, streets, and trees bathed in light or dense shade. With quick, energetic brush strokes and an illustrator’s deft touch, Crotty’s daubs of paint articulate the solid objects; a car, a bridge, a factory. Frequently a thin, liquid glaze underlies his opaque stokes and occasionally this abstract skein of paint does little to articulate the object, but at its best, the glaze adds to the richness of the paint surface.
Vincent Crotty’s painting career in American spans 20 years, with numerous exhibits in local galleries. Of Irish background, his latest work reveals much about the neighborhood in which he lives and his approach to life. What you see is what you get: hard work, honesty, humor, and humility. All apply not only to the painter but also to his Dorchester community.