"Brainard’s work does what good contemporary landscape painting should do: It reminds us of where we are in the physical world, recasting our real surroundings in relevant artistic terms."

–Holly Myers, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2002

Excerpted from “Dreaming in Light, Land and Water: Todd Brainard’s Golden State”
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Looking at things from just outside the expected point of view is integral to Brainard’s work; this unique perspective is the through line in each of his highly keyed paintings. While Brainard’s landscapes have the look and feel of real life, they pulsate with the light and color of a surreal fairy tale. His vibrant skies are as readily reminiscent of lollipops as of a dusky sunset, of coloring books as of catastrophe. In the majority of these paintings, the connection between earth and sky remains prominent, almost primal, and is enhanced by a deft use of scale and composition. Vast swaths of lush grass or barren earth counterbalance expansive skies while lights, buildings, trees—any evidence of human habitation—fill a lively but comparatively narrow strip between land and air.

Imminently practical, he is aware that viewers will bring their own responses to the paintings; some will see a pretty picture, others a chemical disaster, and still others a historic site that invites questions about humans and their environment. Brainard is content with this variety of potential responses and actually prefers not to lead too heavily towards one point of view or another. Not surprisingly, he has memories of seeing Edward Hopper paintings as a child.
Though their palettes differ, Brainard shares with Hopper a confident use of color and the distinctive relationship to crafting a place through composition and light, providing just enough emotional information to form the basis of a narrative accessible to a variety of interpretations. It’s as if each painting is a springboard for a story that unravels in one’s mind later, blending memory and mood with a recollection of the painting.

Although Brainard’s painting is materially grounded in the technical and historical tradition of painting, it relates as readily to printmaking or photography and, metaphorically, to literature. Like a novelist, the artist crafts a place from disparate parts, color and line acting as thought and memory. Indeed, he likens his work to historical fiction, a description that plays itself out in the way each picture mirrors and simultaneously veers from its counterpart in the world, creating a fictional place so closely aligned to a real one as to be nearly, but not completely, indistinguishable.

© Annie Buckley, 2008

"His unpeopled landscapes evoke the anonymity and solitude of a sprawling, borderless urban blanket, while transforming the city’s aura of artifice into a veneer of art."

–Ken Shulman, ARTnews, September 2004