James McGarrell, born in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an important American painter known for painting lush figurative interiors and landscapes. His work has become markedly more abstract since 2006 although he is a very independent figure that has never been associated with any stylistic trend in American art.
McGarrell has had more than a hundred solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in America, England, France and Italy. His paintings, prints and drawings have been included in hundreds of exhibitions in the United States, South America, Europe and Japan and solo presentations by galleries in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Paris, London, Rome and Milan.
McGarrell's work has been seen in many of the most significant surveys of contemporary art including five Whitney Museum Biennials in New York; the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh; Documenta in Kassel, Germany; Dunn International at the Tate Gallery in London; and the Venice Biennale. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Portland Museum of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris the Hamburg Museum of Art, and many other public and private collections in America and Europe.
He is a member of the National Academy and Correspondent Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts de l'Institut de France. In 1995 he was the recipient of the Jimmy Ernst Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Arts and Letters. McGarrell has held residencies, grants, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the study centers of the Bogliasco Foundation outside Genoa and the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio in Italy. He has been senior resident at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program in New Mexico.
His work has been included in: five Whitney Annuals and Biennials; the Carnegie International exhibition twice (1958 and 1983); New Images of Man at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City (1960); the Dunn International at the Tate Gallery, London (1963 and 1964); Documenta III (1964) in Kassel, Germany; and USA Art Vivant at the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France. He was one of five painters selected for The Figurative Tradition in American Art at the U.S. pavilion of the 1968 Venice Biennale. In 2003 several of his paintings were included in La creazione ansiosa: da Picasso a Bacon, a survey exhibition of later 20th century art at the Palazzo Forti, Verona, Italy.
McGarrell's work usually contains many allusions and layers of dream-like images. As the mind and the eye wander into the picture plane, the scenes change from active to passive events.
“I like to think of myself as a maker, not as expresser. Expression should be one part of the thing made well and honestly. I construct my paintings out of the elements of my own experiences, but it’s neither reality nor fantasy. Remembered perception is broken down, thoroughly reordered and synthesized into a new made thing. . .fiction.”
Monoprints completed in 1992 by McGarrell at STUDIO-f create allusions in interior and exterior spaces; these are transformed into frozen environments. The images, many enhanced by hand painting by the artist, make active objects become passive.
McGarrell currently lives and works in Newbury, Vermont.