Jack Radetsky | From Illussionism to Hyperrealism


Inspired by the 17th century Dutch masters, my paintings are about light, atmosphere and place. I have come to appreciate that atmosphere is not an object which can be painted, but is rather the byproduct of palette and an understanding of light and the absence of light, shadow. This is the language I use to describe the intimacy of place and the innate attraction we experience to the light source.


Richard Muhlberger

In VENETIAN REFLECTIONS, one of the artist’s most direct compositions, two folds of a three-fold screen capture the shadows of a Tiffany lamp and the spill of light from its incandescent bulb. The same light source brings into deep sharp focus the shadows of the elaborate Victorian table on which the lamp stands. Behind this, and across the third fold, are soft horizontal patterns of street light (or moonlight) between the slats of a Venetian blind. The nocturnal illumination of the tableau casts a spell over the entire space in which the screen is displayed. For a moment, the viewer feels compelled to walk behind it to switch off the lamp or readjust the blinds. Illusion is in control. Everyone but you has gone to bed. Silence reigns.

In Jack Radetsky’s paintings, people are never shown but there are re-minders of human activity. What was there and what is now invisible are as important as the image that is retained on the canvas. Lights and shadows become the evocations of life style. Radetsky composes behind a three-piece scrim of cloth, varying lights and arrangements of objects until the composition coincides with the image in his mind. This set-up, bright even in a lighted studio, becomes his model. He then paints onto his stretched canvases, using traditional brush techniques as well as brushes and spray guns. He says that much of the creative act is in the planning.

Certain objects, like musical instruments, keep recurring in Radetsky’s work. An old-fashioned swivel piano stool finds its way into a number of the compositions, as do the tendrils of hanging vines and leaves of potted plants. In one painting, a bird cage is the most prominent object, while in his most recent work it is a woman’s silk blouse over a chair back, and her spike-heeled shoe nearby.

Seldom are these objects revealed through a single silhouette; instead, there are usually two or three shadows from each object creating complex and fascinating patterns on the screens. These result from multiple light sources, situated at varying distances from each object. Other patterns, more abstract than the shadows, appear in distorted forms that suggest their oculus: the rim of the lamp, screen of a television set, the slats in the venetian blind. These patterns of light play against the multiple tonalities of the shadows and take on the color key that dominates the mood of each piece.

The light is apt to be cool when Radetsky suggests attic spaces and it becomes busy and intense when the theme is jazz. In other screens, the viewer knows it is midnight by the cold light. A fan in the window reminds the viewer it is summer. Each one of these settings, with its appropriate lighting, is a world for Radetsky. And — for at least a moment — he believes each world is reality.

After the initial astonishment that Radetsky’s paintings are not real, it is the quality of the light that holds the viewer. Radetsky is a pure romantic in his use of light. While his paintings cannot be compared to the work of any other artist at any other time, in their evocation of emotion they remind me of the effect of Vermeer or Hopper or certain poets. When I think of Radetsky’s paintings, I also think of the novels of Edith Wharton and the poems of Sara Teasdale. Radetsky’s sensibilities may, in fact, belong to the 1920’s, but only the 70’s and 80’s cold provide a vocabulary for this artist.

Richard Muhlberger - 1982
Writer; Vice-Director of Education, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Home | Work | About | Bio| Contact