This exhibition charts the evolution of a practice that draws on the realist tradition of painting, from early Renaissance painting to Gustave Courbet and early Lucian Freud.Always painted directly from nature, in natural light and life-size, Altfest’s work demonstrates a rare technical ability derived from intense concentration and minute observation. At the same time, she increasingly introduces wordplay, innuendo and psychological impact into her paintings.
Early works focus on natural features such as trees and rocks. Produced on a larger scale with broad brush strokes and bold, vibrant colours, these works appear to play with the senses, as moss and lichen seem tactile and three-dimensional. The sheer physical and mental attention invested in these paintings has left many commentators with a feeling of claustrophobia as Altfest’s obsessive lines and strokes push realism to the edge of abstraction.
Altfest is perhaps best known for the small-scale and painstakingly detailed fragments of male body parts that are painted over long periods of time making substantial demands on both artist and sitter. She has described her painting process as an act of reverence and a voyage of self-discovery.
Altfest was born in New York City in 1970, received an MFA from Yale in 1997 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2002. Recent solo exhibitions include the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2010); White Cube, London (2011); the New Museum, New York (2012). She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012 and exhibited in the 2013 Venice Biennale.