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  • Tuesday-Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 10am-5pm
  • Friday: 10am-7pm
  • Saturday: 10am-5pm
  • Sunday: 10am-5pm

1606 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501


Patrick McFarlin

Portraits from Pat’s Downtown Club


—MaLin Wilson Powell, Artforum

In December 1996, the work of Santa Fe resident Patrick McFarlin was on view at three venues in his adopted hometown. This versatile transplant from Arkansas who first exhibited his funky sculpture in San Francisco during the late ’60s was showing a smorgasbord of his expressive talents. The big enchilada was titled “Portraits from Pat’s Downtown Club,” the name of a congregation of motley portraits installed at SITE Santa Fe’s warehouse, the city’s international Kunsthalle in the rail yard district. In 1993, Patrick McFarlin began inviting friends to his studio to sit for quick oil portraits and a chat. The impetus for this open studio salon was to break through the pall that had settled over midcareer artists following the art-market bust. The get-togethers took on a life of their own, and by 1995 the gatherings not only acquired the name Pat’s Downtown Club but went public with a series of open-studio events: eighty vivid portraits, hung floor-to-ceiling, were at once an exhibition and a backdrop for poetry readings and performance artists.

For SITE Santa Fe this winter, curator Louis Grachos selected and arranged over 200 portraits in two large galleries. During the show McFarlin set up his easel and a raised dais that positioned his sitters so that painter and painted were on an equal plane. Three afternoons a week McFarlin painted more portraits, which were added to the installation. They were hung in grids according to size—small, medium, large, and extra-large. They are mostly fierce and raucous in a palette clanging with hot complementarity: a red neck meets a lime green shirt, an orange ear hovers in a sea of turquoise, a slash of yellow nose casts a blue shadow. Often, there are double portraits. All these devices—the grid installation, on-the-spot painting, and conversation­—amplify the back-and-forth nature of McFarlin’s endeavor. Repartee and various frames for comparison abound: a gray-bearded, full-faced man can’t be contained by the paper; a pale tangerine apparition of a woman quavers; two similar heads sport entirely different expressions. The effect is an active conversation that revivifies what Gombrich called the “beholder’s share.” The portraits are not just a display of good painting­—which they are—they’re a full-bodied, open-ended discussion.

All the works in “Portraits from Pat’s Downtown Club” also form a single entity: an extended three-year portrait of the Santa Fe art world that is a mixture of Nadar-style studio photographs and Red Grooms’ roving circus. In contrast to this sprawling public effort were McFarlin’s broody industrial landscapes simultaneously on view at the Linda Durham Gallery. All the dozen or more presentations—from combinations of postcard-size paintings to large works on paper with wide borders—are elongated horizontals, punctuated by utility poles and billboards. These somnolent expanses overlaid with electrical charges and advertising messages convey a post-apocalyptic stillness. Who knew we’d still have to get up the morning after? Like the portraits, these canvases are quickly painted and specific but their mood is utterly desolate. They are beautiful this-isn’t-anything-like-I’d-ever-imagined paintings.

Artist Bios

Patrick McFarlin