[Originally published by The Dallas Morning News in an altered format]
The opacity of artistic fashionability can weigh heavily on gallerygoers. In fact, when encoded, conceptual work becomes burdensome, it’s refreshing to rediscover how deeply the spectacle of luxuriantly painted landscapes can make us dive. The Meadows Museum offers a case in point with their ambitious show, “Impressions of Europe: Nineteenth-Century Vistas by Martin Ríco.” Over 100 of his works are on display, allowing us to stray through a fissure in time and experience the work of a 19th-century sensibility honed to a degree akin to perfect pitch.
Ríco is known for his work as a plein air artist, working outdoors and capturing landscapes in France, Italy, the United States and, of course, his native Spain. The show is varied and each piece is spectacular; however, among the most interesting works are those capturing the Islamic influence upon Spanish architecture. There is a resonant thrill in intricate tile work and carved, arched doorways, all of which are captured in Ríco’s paintings. One example, among many, is “The School Patio,” a work rife with romantic exotica.
The artist spent multiple summers in Venice — sometimes working in gondolas — and painted nearly every surface in the city. Thus, “Santa Maria della Salute” is a seductive paean invoking the nostalgia of one of the most fabulous cities on the globe. It depicts dappled water, a stucco façade and a cascade of columns and domes that reverberate with tactile charm. Yet another work, “La Corniche,” renders the lineaments of the French Riviera before it became piled with spendy, multi-story buildings that flare with all the architectural allure of fast-food chains.
The Meadows Museum continues to put up stellar shows. Their ongoing relationship with the Prado Museum in Madrid is not only a coup; it offers a tremendous opportunity for those of us near “the museum on the prairie” to see some of the best art in the world. In an overly digitized world, it also operates as a badly needed reminder that we are exuberant, incarnate beings made for imbibing beauty.