Light from Window


oil on canvas
45 1/4 x 45 1/4 inches


The paintings of John Register [1939-1996] chronicle a search for overlooked beauty in unpeopled places. As a record of America’s depersonalized landscapes, his paintings of empty coffee shops in Los Angeles, old hotels in Chicago and bus stations in the Southwestern desert celebrate sunlight, but also a haunting stillness tinged with regret and hope.

Though he called himself a realist, Register filtered the observed world through a tightly focused emotional lens. Often starting with snapshots of his subject, the artist absorbed and dramatically distilled early sketches until the finished painting appeared weeks or even years later bearing little resemblance to the original scene.

In his last decade, many of Register’s images came from the streets of Los Angeles, a city to him that epitomized the alienation of American life. “When I drive around L.A.,” he said in 1989, “I look for an offbeat beauty. I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it. There are things so ugly that I can’t paint them. Sometimes I get depressed by that city, and by other cities I visit. But I like the patina of things that have been battered by life.” A persistent observer, Register claimed these places not just as American scenes but as expressions of a philosophical inner landscape.

Register’s first solo exhibition was with David Stuart Gallery in Los Angeles in 1975. Since, his work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country, including a major, travelling retrospective at the San Jose Museum of Art in 1999 with an accompanying monograph. Register first exhibited with Modernism in 1982, with eight subsequent solo exhibitions before his death. His work has also been included in fifteen group exhibitions at Modernism.