What’s more lovable than your local diner? A new painting from an (also new!) artist that brings so much more to the table. We’re thrilled to welcome Jennifer Warren to 20x200 with Brent’s Drugs, a vivacious, pastel-laden painting of a people-less eatery that’s anything but uninhabited.
A mostly self-taught painter, Warren doesn’t box herself in, moving freely between genres, mediums, subjects, and themes. One recurring interest is interiors. Often devoid of human figures and punctuated by peculiar light, the interior spaces she brings to life with her brush have a personality all their own. In some ways reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (and teetering similarly between realism and impressionism) Brent’s Drugs shows a diner at night, intriguingly inviting and awash in artificial light. Notably, Hopper’s voyeuristic angle is reversed—our point of view is from the inside, looking out, where you might imagine the artist sitting—and what we see here is far more raucous. That, despite a paucity of patrons.
Though the blue-and-white booths are empty, Brent’s Drugs vibrates with Warren’s subtly quivering strokes and stylized swaths of neon. All the hues are amplified as if the white, fluorescent bulbs radiating from the ceiling are bathing the surroundings in surreal intensity. Dramatic, vivid light is the impetus here, acting on every surface in a distinctive way. The painting’s open composition and off-center, deep angle double down on the sense of movement and space. The conspicuous emptiness does elicit contemplation—is this Covid-era vacancy? Closing hours? A late-night lull?—but it also emphasizes the latent energy of the room Warren’s invited us into.
Warren’s debut edition was inspired by a photo taken by a friend at Brent’s Drugs—a fifties-throwback soda fountain and diner in Jackson, Mississippi. The scene drew Warren in with its deep perspective, brightly colored banquettes, glossy reflections, and effusive neon signs—the ideal fodder for the Chicago-based artist’s eye for color, pattern, and light play. Once a pharmacy as well, Brent’s Drugs retains a healthy serving of its original style elements (pastel hues, polished and plasticized surfaces, checkerboard floors) and remains a local gathering place. We like to think Warren tapped into that liveliness from hundreds of miles away, her paintbrush a psychic medium for some artful magic.
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