Private, an exhibition of new paintings, demonstrates how Grassie, who has for several years made meticulous small-scale paintings of existing artworks, has recently turned his attention to the exhibition space, its history and contents.
To prepare the show, Grassie spent a week photographing the gallery in its entirety, after which he returned home to the UK and painted five miniature renderings of the space and the artworks in it. Painted with exquisite accuracy in egg-tempera on board, the small works are flawless, deceiving the eye and denying their basic painterly conception. The luminous quality of the paintings is reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch interiors, the invisible brushstrokes creating a jewel-like palette of light and color. The self-referential nature of the works-
they are paintings of photographs of other works of art-grant these small paintings a seductive and disconcerting pull. In Grassie’s depictions of the gallery’s spaces, offices, storage, and hallways- many of which are private and typically unavailable to public viewing-the scenes are captured from odd angles with the artwork always peripheral in the composition. A Vik Muniz photograph hangs at the end of a hallway, part of a Richard Long photograph is glimpsed through an open door, a Tom Sachs sculpture is barely visible on the side wall of an office. However, Grassie’s tiny paintings are more than an objective record of the space and its contents: their technique and approach confront the basic issues of exhibition, documentation, and the role of photography in the so-called “crisis of representation” in contemporary realist painting.