For decades, James Hennessey has been painting interior scenes with a view to the outside world. Flaneur, a recent painting, reminds the viewer that the artist was heavily influenced by his teacher Richard Diebenkorn. He studied with Diebenkorn at the University of Colorado, and the West Coast painter became a significant, life-long influence on Hennessey’s aesthetic. Hennessey’s translucent veils of color, with layers of rich tones reading through, seem suspended in shifting space, part of a tug of war between color and line– the dual concerns driving Modern painting.
Whether Hennessey’s paintings depict the actual view from his studio, from a hotel window, or even if they are made-up scenes and interiors from the artist’s imagination, as in the Flaneur, the viewer senses a relationship between the figures and objects within, and the scene outside.
A 1979 self portrait of Hennessey smoking, while standing in his Eutaw Street studio with his back to the windows, again suggests an interplay between outside/inside. Has Hennessey stepped back to look at the painting of himself smoking? More than merely a painting of an interior figure with a cityscape as backdrop, the composition suggests a direct relationship between the dark, smoky jumble in the studio and the activity in the world outside with sharply defined architecture and deep blue sky.