Hilary Pecis’s Rose-Tinted Los Angeles Is Not All Fantasy

Portrait of Hilary Pecis by Amanda Friedman. All images courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery.

“I don’t make pictures of things I don’t like,” says painter Hilary Pecis, standing in the gallery of her hotly anticipated debut exhibition at David Kordansky in Los Angeles. Pecis has enjoyed enthusiastic market attention for her earnestly winsome paintings of happily cluttered domestic interiors, tabletop still lifes, and street scenes of LA, where she lives. The world Pecis describes is simple, harmonious, free from fear, and untroubled by social ills. It is a place that many of us, especially over the past few years, would be glad to escape to.

“I’m definitely looking at LA with rose-tinted glasses,” she admits, regarding her painting North Hollywood Strip Mall, 2022. “Although, if I was beautifying or idealizing it, I would probably edit out all the gum on the sidewalk in this painting.” The zig-zagging composition also includes power lines, street signage, homemade merchant posters and business insignia, all rendered in Pecis’s charmingly wonky hand.

In her exhibition “Paths Crossed,” she turns her democratic, equalizing gaze on such diverse subjects as an auto body shop, the Grand Canyon, a spray of pear blossoms, the view from a hill in Echo Park, a friend’s garden, and, in her largest painting to date, a glorious, golden-hour mountain vista from a trail above Malibu. 

“During the pandemic,” Pecis says, “it was often noted that I was a still life painter. I wanted to remind people that I also paint landscapes! I spend so much of my time outside. I run 50-plus miles a week. I love being outside.”

Pecis often paints from photographs she shoots on her phone while out running. Most of the places in “Paths Crossed” are well-known to her: No Parking, Private, 2022, shows foliage across the street from her home; Lily’s Backyard, 2023, depicts the garden of her studio-mate, the painter Lily Stockman; and that pear tree shades the spot where she eats her lunch. Even 2022’s Southern Rim—the chasmic void of the widely-depicted Grand Canyon—commemorates a place that has family significance for her.

The show is nearly stolen by a piece in the viewing room behind the main gallery: a double-sided freestanding screen, adorned with two opposing views of the bridge over Echo Park Lake. Pecis says that she’s attempted to make sculptures in the past, but they always ended up feeling like objects with pictures stuck on them. With this screen—titled Palm Horizon, 2023—the domestic object and the urban landscape are perfectly integrated. 

Pecis says that compared to still life scenes, landscapes are much more challenging—not to mention laborious. Interiors, she muses, are mostly hard edges and solid colors; outdoors, there are myriad surfaces and textures that she has to translate meticulously into paint.

Do these landscapes indicate a new direction in her work, I ask? Maybe not: “I cannot wait to make a still life painting!” she laughs.

"Paths Crossed" will be on view from March 18 through April 22, 2023 at David Kordansky in Los Angeles at 5130 W. Edgewood Pl.