Hank Pitcher: Montecito Beaches 1978-2008

At Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery. Shows through August 31.

Hank Pitcher's "A Woman in the Clouds" (2008).

With the plans for Rick Caruso’s hotel project at Miramar making headlines, and the newly refurbished and thoroughly re-imagined Coral Casino now open for business, there has never been a better time to take a closer look at the legendary beaches of Montecito. In Hank Pitcher’s new show at Sullivan Goss, the Hollywood-style glamour of the Coral Casino meets the beachfront cabana funk of Miramar, and it’s all rendered in the painter’s inimitable style of crisp, clean California surf-modernism. From the smallest sketch (“Revelers” at 8″x16″) to the most monumental finished pictures (like “The Coral Casino,” 1986 at 68″x102″), these works consistently reveal the vision of a man who has dedicated heart and soul to observing this intricate and sometimes fantastic scene.

The strong horizontal organization of “View of Miramar Beach with Umbrella” (2007-2008) relies on a sophisticated set of decisions made during the composition process. The railing of the porch and the long line of sand zip across the left of the picture plane, dividing it into up and down worlds where grasses grow and chairs lounge, or umbrellas and palms stretch blissfully into the sky.

The Coral Casino gets several fascinating tributes, including one large canvas that is more vertically oriented, “The Coral Casino” (1986), which memorializes the old view of the tower from before the recent renovations to the second floor blocked part of that view. Seen from below, the tower’s glass cage and its central shaft of green vapor glow against the deep blue of the sky. The underside of a nearby palm echoes the effect in the warm golden tinge of the pineapple-shaped bole. “Night Swimming” and “Woman in the Clouds” offer even more cinematic experiences of the same decidedly elegant, noir-ish establishment, recalling the work of Raymond Chandler and Edward Hopper.

The wonderful “View from Ortega Hill with Fennel” (2002) marries the beauties of extreme foregrounding with the fennel plants and delicate bluing of the background sunset. Poised wherever he plants his feet, Pitcher succeeds in portraying these sacred spaces free of the sense of entitlement and possessiveness so often expressed by the picturesque.


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