Cities are loud and busy but not at all hours—and not in all paintings. Margaret Montgomery, who grew up in New York City and takes it as the subject for many of her realistic paintings, does not depict a city of 24/7 noise and traffic and neon. Her Guggenheim glows with rosy sunset light, peacefully settled on an unusually calm Fifth Avenue. Her Jefferson Market Library sits likewise, quietly restful at the sharp corner of Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street. Even the pedestrians and cyclists are still. The details of surrounding buildings ring true to those landmarks as I remember them, from back when I lived there, too. I cannot say the same for City College’s Neo-Gothic Shepard Hall on its East Harlem campus, because I never visited but also because Montgomery paints it generically. I’ve also never been to the intersection she depicts in “Early Morning in South Philly,” but I could look at it for a long time, entranced by the urban hush, so silent yet so filled with the zig-zagging of utility lines across the pale blue sky and the awnings, buildings and stacked fruits whose colors and shapes rhyme through the streets.
—Lori Waxman 10/13/2023 12:49 PM