James Rieck looks at American life through the lens of the fading model of the classic, aspirational American dream. Using the vocabulary of 1950s-1960s department store advertising, he deliberately composes his paintings to both represent the utopian promise of hope and happiness, but also to reveal its hollow falseness—both then and now. By dismantling the reference material, he creates new pictures that are speaking in the same language, but saying different things.
“I used to paint from my own photos, but I found it more exciting to explore the ideas embedded in pictures used to sell products. By using the models in ads, I can bring my own point of view to the figures in my work, while still having the loaded content the ads carry." Rieck says.“I don’t focus on the face in my paintings, or even copying the ad. I bring the attention to the unspoken body language of the models, and their accoutrements. Often times it is a gesture or posture that I’m interested in. It’s there that I see the history of figure and portrait painting. There’s a similar language to presenting one’s best, with undertones of hiding. We know clothes are used to cover us up – they always tell us about what we are hiding from ourselves and each other.”
James Rieck earned his MFA and BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. Rieck's paintings have been exhibited across the United States. Museum and group shows include: "We Could Be Heroes: The Mythology of Monsters and Heroes in Contemporary Art" at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, "Size Does Matters," curated by Shaquille O'Neal, the Flag Foundation, New York, "As Others See Us: The Contemporary Portrait," Brattleboro Museum, VT, and at the Corcoran Museum, Washington, DC. His work is present in the Burger Collection, the Bollag-Rothschild Collection, Switzerland, and the Chadha Collection, The Netherlands, among others. James Rieck lives and works in Joshua Tree, CA.