Danielle Roberts: Evening All Day | Fredericks & Freiser
The portraitist Danielle Roberts, who has a show right now at the Fredericks & Freiser gallery, has a lot in common with Jenna Gribbon and Shannon Cartier Lucy, who I’ve featured on here before. All three painters are young women who paint young women: dramatically lit, listless, filled with ennui.
Roberts’ scenes are generally suburban, and take place at night. One woman is perched with one leg up on the back of a car in a convenience store car park. Another shares a bowl of popcorn on a too-small sofa. Another, less lucky, is locked in a (disappointed-looking) post-coital embrace. Each has a blank, zombie-like stare, static as a Byzantine Virgin Mary. This is all offset by Roberts’ dramatic night-time palette of purples and blues, with highlight passages of brighter pinks and greens.
The artist must have spent time growing up in these suburban environments (I’m guessing), but now lives in Brooklyn. One work, Tethered, Above the Streets Between the Lights - and I love the melodramatic title - showcases this new home. Two men and a woman are at a party on a rooftop, surrounded by tall buildings and water towers.
(I could write about water towers all day. Those water towers in Roberts’ painting are the same as those lovingly painted by Edward Hopper, featured in his massive retrospective on right now at the Whitney. They seem incredibly exotic to me as a European visitor to New York City.)
But Roberts’ morose, zombie-like youth are as unimpressed by their city surroundings. They have their backs to the spectacular skyline - they’ve seen it all before. The two men are on their phones, the night glow from their screens just one more source of artificial light. The woman, gripping a beer and staring off to the side, seems uncomfortably suspended on the butt-height roof ledge, rather than sitting on it.
It’s a particularly memorably strange scene, in a show full of them.
Danielle Roberts: Evening All Day is at Fredericks & Freiser (New York City). 26 January - 25 February 2023