Sean Downey’s work at Steven Zevitas is dealing with an old problem, that of painting in an age in which painting is an obsolete medium, at least in the respect that there have been easier ways to make images for a century and a half. Downey is digging into it in an original way, using paint to simulate photo collages, multiple-exposure photographs, digital glitching, and commercial prints.
Scenes of movie-making recur in this series, men operating film cameras on interior sets. Simulation reverberates upon simulation as Downey applies oils with a photographic coolness reminiscent of Philip Pearlstein to the depiction of these views. In Wholly Idle (2017), a synecdotal leg aims a camera at seated woman, coiffed à la Farrah Fawcett and sepia toned but typing at a laptop. Some sort of electronic disturbance—a faulty video signal?—encroaches upon the picture. Downey doesn’t solve the aforementioned problem for us. Instead he conveys the discombobulation it produces, intriguingly.