Photo by Tom DuBrock
McClain Gallery Press Release
May 26, 2020
McClain Gallery is pleased to present an online exhibition of recent oil paintings by San Francisco Bay Area artist Tom McKinley (b. 1955, Bay City, Michigan; lives and works in Emeryville, California). This is the first exhibition of the artist’s work with McClain Gallery.
McKinley is known for panoramic depictions of polished, modern interiors, often viewed from a correspondingly manicured outdoor space, just beyond the reach of otherwise open and inviting glass doorways. One of McKinley's earliest and most immediate influences is architecture, and contemporary homes form the armature for his paintings. Beyond the modern framework, amenities often feature lap pools, sleek hardscaping, the well-placed tree or two, and scenic overlooks of cityscapes and rolling hills to sweeping views of the sea.
McKinley often stands alongside the role of a director, capturing these fictional scenes at dusk or high-noon when the lighting is most dramatic. The meticulously rendered spaces avoid any references to identifiable locations, but they feel oddly familiar - a movie set or a magazine snapshot come to mind. This ambiguity plunges the work into a realm beyond the hyper-reality associated with photorealism and imparts a surreal and poetic depth to the compositions. McKinley has said, "Houses are ultimately the main character in a landscape," and this character study unfolds in various ways through each of his paintings. These domestic mise en scènes are peculiarly devoid of people and eerily silent, almost hermetically so. Recognizable design objects and artworks suggest surrogates for the inhabitants: Spring Supper depicts a backyard with an empty candle-lit table awaiting diners, and in another painting, two chairs sit facing opposite directions, highlighting the absence of the house's human occupants.
The idealism accompanying midcentury suburban expansion and its packaged domesticity is on display here. As if lifted from a photoshoot, these voyeuristic scenes mirror our culture's fetishization of objects and the production of highly designed, intimate domestic spaces. One painting featured in the exhibition, Bruno Maximus, is an outlier in its striking depiction of a lone horse standing near the pool in the foreground. This distinct blend of romanticism mixed with disquietude feels full of potential, yet strangely empty. Like Ed Ruscha's gas stations, or a De Chirico street scene, McKinley's domestic stand-ins feel like monuments to a memory, rather than to the thing itself.
Tom McKinley was born in Bay City, Michigan, and educated in both the United States and Europe. Beginning at the Goddard College in Vermont, he continued his education overseas in England at the Falmouth School of Art in Falmouth, the Ravensbourne College of Art in London, and Brighton Polytechnic in Brighton. McKinley currently lives and works in the San Francisco area.