Flat Mountain

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Paint on table pad
27.5 x 35.5 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Joe light, a fan of classic Western movies that often featured conflicts between cowboys and Native Americans, may have been drawn to the genre as he was of mixed black, white, and Native American ancestry, and may have identified with the multiple ethnic perspectives these movies sometimes offered. The panoramic vistas and magnified sense of scale that define the Western film genre appear to have influenced Light’s own conception of landscape painting.

Flat Mountain is a depiction of an elemental landscape created entirely from the primary colors plus black. The central flat-topped mesa or mountain for, dramatically silhouetted against a brilliant yellow light, recalls famous Western film locations such as Monument Valley in Utah. In Light’s complex rendering of positive and negative space, the mountain form may be viewed as a solid mass or as a dark void. Light’s radically distilled landscapes endows a familiar, or even clichéd, iconography of the West with a renewed sense of wonder. —Timothy Anglin Burgard