Sydney Licht

1972 · United States

Artist biography

Sydney Licht modernizes the conventions of still life painting by shifting the subject matter to signifiers of contemporary consumer culture. Our visual lives are cluttered with packages, clothing and furnishings that come to us in a swirl of color and pattern. This is reflected in Licht’s compositions and artistic process:

“We acquire and discard constantly. Knowing that the objects I’m depicting are on their way to the recycling bin affects the way I paint them. This enables me to think about those items from a more complicated perspective. Underlying my scattering and gathering activity is an expression of both desire and loss.” Sydney Licht’s still-life subjects are not merely quotidian, household objects, but the packaging, shopping bags, boxes, and inevitable detritus in which they are sold and purchased. In her own words: “I am interested in updating the conventions of still life by picturing items that reflect the way we currently live.” She paints her subjects as geometric, flat forms that begin to appear abstract, architectural, and almost monumental. Licht began her career painting large, Neo-Expressionist paintings, eventually turning to her more autobiographical subjects but retaining her careful sense of color. She works with restricted palettes, limiting herself to only four or five colors per work, and avoids using black completely.

Sydney Licht’s still-life subjects are not merely quotidian, household objects, but the packaging, shopping bags, boxes, and inevitable detritus in which they are sold and purchased. In her own words: “I am interested in updating the conventions of still life by picturing items that reflect the way we currently live.” She paints her subjects as geometric, flat forms that begin to appear abstract, architectural, and almost monumental. Licht began her career painting large, Neo-Expressionist paintings, eventually turning to her more autobiographical subjects but retaining her careful sense of color. She works with restricted palettes, limiting herself to only four or five colors per work, and avoids using black completely.

Licht’s paintings offer us a vision of skewed perception and abstracted forms, through which overlooked corners of everyday life are elevated to subjects of utmost intrigue. The abandoned boxes, artful packaging, and mundane objects that are remnants of our fast-paced lifestyle are arranged as sensitively as the vases and fruits of still lives from long ago. Their shapes, patterns, and colors are heightened through a painterly technique and unusual perspectives that allow us see these ever-present objects as if for the first time. The intimate scale of the paintings and close-cropped compositions lend a tenderness to that which we might otherwise consider disinteresting or undesirable. Sydney Licht has exhibited widely throughout the United States. Her work has been featured in the New Yorker and Elle Décor, among other publications. She has been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome twice, and the recipient of the Yaddo Residency. Licht has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and lives and works in New York City.

Sydney Licht

  • Exhibitions 1

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