A painter who finds inspiration in local disconnect and temporal space
The emphasis on urban stasis and washes of light in his paintings usually set off knee-jerk critical comparisons to Edward Hopper — but Amory aligns himself more with modern figurative painters like David Hockney, David Park, Elmer Bischoff, and Nathan Oliveira. "Everybody kept talking about Hopper when they first started seeing my paintings, but he was honestly off my radar," Amory told me. "I didn't really see anything by him in person until a few years ago." Instead, his biggest influence is John Singer Sargent. "I can't get enough of him. What he could conjure with just a touch of paint. My goal in life is to work towards getting at least one-tenth as good as him."
This year, Amory showed "24 in SF" at the Sandra Lee Gallery, a series of 24 paintings with accompanying time-stamped videos that chronicled a full day of the city's life. Each work distills in a single image an hour spent videotaping and observing the goings-on at historically and personally relevant spots like Portsmouth Square, outside Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre, or a spot in the Tenderloin where a friend was killed. "I wanted to explore how the city itself moved through time, including historical time and my own timeline," Amory said. Exhibited with each painting was a vitrine of street detritus gathered by Amory as he videotaped each location, displaying with archeological intensity another dimension of its time-space look and feel.
The "24 in SF" paintings — strikingly familiar, emotionally precise, beautifully executed, philosophically effuse — aren't far removed form the "Waiting" series, even though their genesis came about by intriguing means.
"I've been working for years on a huge mural where I find a house in San Francisco of every color, and arrange them, dozens or even hundreds of them, in a spectrum across a wall. So I spent days walking around the city looking for the perfect houses. I kept coming back to certain spots, the spots in '24'. So I did that series while waiting for this other, giant project to be finished."