Steve Smulka (American, b. 1949) Still Life & Landscape Realism Artist

Learn More About Steve Smulka

Smulka has garnered international recognition for his novel approach toward contemporary realism. Extending the focus of photorealism to accommodate traditional elements of landscape painting and portraiture, the artist exemplifies the generative potential and inclusivity of contemporary visual practice as it erodes classical genre distinctions. Balancing immediacy of expression with technical perfection, his works reflect an extraordinary aptitude and profound enthusiasm for capturing natural light in two dimensions. His signature motif, the meticulous reproduction of oversized bottles, jars, and decanters, has earned him particular attention from critic J. Bower Bell, who writes, “Each work is lovingly crafted; the treatment of glass profound, mature; the skill, awesome. But it is the light that matters, the light that is somehow transformed by facility of hand and felicity of brush into a compelling icon. This mysterious alchemy of craft, vision and cunning turns paint into light and light into magic.”

Born in Detroit, Steve Smulka moved to New York City at the age of 18 to attend The School of Visual Arts on a full scholarship. While majoring in fine art he studied with, among others, photo-realist Chuck Close, who had a profound effect on his sensibility. After completing his education at the University of Massachusetts, where he received an MFA degree, Steve moved back to New York to continue his painting career. He began painting in the abstract idiom but after spending a month eating and drinking in all of the art in Italy his work became more realistic as influenced by the old masters.

Smulka chose to concentrate his efforts on capturing the elusive quality of natural light that has always fascinated him. He follows the tradition of genre painting of everyday objects but gives his paintings a contemporary edge by painting objects larger than life. His hyper-realistic vision of glass pulsates with life and turns opaque paint into translucent, glowing light. In his paintings a brilliant beam of illumination probes to focus on the elements of dramatic compositions. His cast shadows propel these compositions into the actual world of the viewer. These deep pools of shimmering color allow him to express himself with light.

In 1978 he had his first show at the Soho Center of Art, Larry Aldrich Museum became his first major collector. As a result of his exposure his paintings began to be collected by some of America’s largest corporations. He has exhibited his work regularly since then. His paintings are now included in numerous corporate and private collections in North and South America, Europe and Japan. There is always a lengthy waiting list for originals.

Smulka currently has a studio outside New York City and he teaches drawing and anatomy at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. He began producing limited edition giclée prints in 2002, making his work available to a wider audience.

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