Jessica Silverman is pleased to announce “Portraits of Place,” a solo show of seven oil paintings by Rebecca Ness. Influenced by an eccentric range of figurative artists, including Bruegel the Elder, Alice Neel, and Norman Rockwell, Ness is a virtuoso painter of her social world. With a voracious appetite for accurate observational details, the artist shuns idealization and fantasy. In her dogged pursuit of everyday reality, however, she creates painterly stories with their romance and inside jokes.

The child of an architect and a psychotherapist, Ness has long been interested in the social psychology of place. In Cubbyhole (2024), a roughly six-by-eight-foot tableau, Ness depicts a legendary New York lesbian bar. Outside the venue, a lineup of characters allows Ness to investigate facial expressions, non-verbal behavior, and the visual dynamics of camaraderie. Inside, a monochromatic crowd melds into one, except a few curious personalities. “I spend a lot of time alone in the studio. These characters are my friends,” says Ness, who also admits that she aspires to the resilience of a common pigeon. “My favorite artists are pigeons, not doves,” she explains. “They are acclimatized to urbanity and immersed in communities.”

Like most of her paintings, Cubbyhole makes history of the present. It also demonstrates the way Ness contrasts what she calls “big brush moments” with “flashes of fine detail.” The texts written on tote bags and signs like “Open for all” and “In our America, love wins” are rendered crisply. Meanwhile, a green sweatshirt is gestural, vague, and unbranded. In between these formal extremes, Ness shows off her technical flair with exquisite passages such as a tie-dye T-shirt where she has used transparent paint, craft-shop texture tools, Q-tips, rags, sea sponges, and a load of different brushes to create a mini-painting within the painting.

Even when Ness’s work is unpopulated, it is rich in commentary about community. U-Haul (2024), for example, portrays the back of a moving van where the truck’s trompe l’oeil door dominates the top third of the work, and the artist’s three-dimensional belongings occupy the bottom two-thirds. A small self-portrait of the artist can be seen in the chrome lamp on the left side of the truck. The work riffs on the gay joke: what does a lesbian bring to the second date? A U-Haul.

Ness’s oeuvre is replete with stylistic signatures. She loves the way possessions reflect and comfort their owners to the degree that her works often contain hoarder-like arrangements of tchotchkes. Painterly wood grains similarly battle the artist’s horror vacui or fear of emptiness. Repeated objects, such as the artist’s ubiquitous bicycle, which appears in three paintings in this show, also act as motifs. Indeed, the bike acts as an indexical trace of the artist’s movements between the places portrayed. By these means, her bike is like her brush – a means by which Ness transports the viewer.

Rebecca Ness (b. 1992, Salem, MA) received her MFA from Yale School of Art and her BFA from Boston University. Her work is in the collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Denver Art Museum; Orange County Museum of Art, CA; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Yale University Art Gallery; JP Morgan Chase Art Collection; as well as international collections including Moderna Museet, Stockholm; M Art Foundation, Shanghai; Albertina Museum; Wien, Austria; Long Museum, Shanghai; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong; Zuzeum Art Centre, Rīga, Latvia; Kistefos Museum, Jevnaker, Norway; Dangxia Art Space, Beijing; Recharge Foundation, Singapore; and Asymmetry Art Foundation, London/Hong Kong.

Over the past four years, she has enjoyed solo shows in New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles, Cologne, Germany, and Seoul, Korea. She has been included in recent group exhibitions at SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA, and Akron Art Museum, OH. Ness lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.