Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dinnerstein at Frey Norris in San Francisco

I discovered Harvey Dinnerstein about 2 months ago while visiting the De Young Museum. The painting titled “Sundown, the Crossing” (above) was hanging downstairs by the special exhibit area (if I remember correctly). I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. In the work a crowd of people stands looking off the back of a New York ferry. The painting, created in 1999 is large, 74 x 84”. It was a gift to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco by the Frey Norris Gallery. The figures stand making eye contact with the viewer giving one an eerie feeling. Many looked familiar, Gauguin, Monet, Whitman, the artist himself; then there was a couple, children, the figure of death, the devil, people from various cultures from around the world in traditional dress and others. It seems to be a tribute to the people who have influenced the artist’s life. Perhaps the ferry represents transitions, memory, and loss. Is the body of water they cross the river Styx? This painting invites symbolist narration! This impressive work will be on display at the De Young through the end of November.

Shortly after seeing “Sundown, the Crossing” I learned the Frey Norris Gallery would be exhibiting a retrospective of the artist’s work. On display until December 14th this show contains 30 works from 1956 – 2008 including oils, pastels, and drawings.

Dinnerstein, 80, is recognized as one of America’s most important figurative painters. He is known for his recent narrative paintings of urban New York City and his realistic life-sized portraits.

The focal point of the show is the painting “Underground Together”. Here we see a cross-section of New York City’s diversity. Men and women of many cultural backgrounds standing together are glimpsed momentarily as the doors to a subway train open, revealing the crowd. Of the many people staring out at us we see the artist himself and the poet Walt Whitman.

The gallery is also selling a beautiful hard-bound monograph published by Chronicle Books titled “Underground Together, The Art and Life of Harvey Dinnerstein” with introduction and essays by Pete Hamill, Gabriel Weisberg, Raman Frey and Wendi Norris. The book is gorgeous. It contains more than 200 images of Dinnerstein’s work from his art career spanning more than 50 years.

Visit the Frey Norris Gallery at

(Images borrowed from the Frey Norris Gallery's website)


Nancy Ewart said...

I went to see his work today- that type of realism is very difficult to pull off (IMHO). I wish I had a fraction of his skills and talent. Thanks for telling me about this artist as I wouldn't have know about him otherwise. Just another service of the friendly and learned bloggers at BAAQ!

Pamela Heyda said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed it! If you can, try to check out that painting at the DeYoung before it goes away. I love it more than any at the gallery. BAAQ is the BEST! ;-)