Tess Bilhartz / Purple Nights / Installation view 

Tess Bilhartz / Purple Nights / Installation view 

Tess Bilhartz / Purple Nights / Installation view 

Tess Bilhartz, It's All Over Now, 2016, oil, acrylic on panel, 48 x 60 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Purple Nights, 2015, oil, acrylic on panel, 24 x 36 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Fatal Mistakes, 2015, oil, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Thunderbird, 2015, acrylic on panel, 24 x 31 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Taken, 2015, acrylic on panel, 24 x 30 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Sorry / Closed, 2015, acrylic on panel, 24 x 30 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Mayhem, 2015, oil, acrylic on panel, 36 x 48 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Late Nights, 2015, oil, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Dark Energy, 2015, oil, acrylic on panel, 36 x 48 inches

Tess Bilhartz, Chevrolet, 2015, acrylic on panel, 24 x 30 inches 

Tess Bilhartz, Deputy, 2015, acrylic, oil on panel, 24 x 30 inches

Tess Bilhartz, 1985, 2015, acrylic, oil on panel, 24 x 30 inches



Purple Nights

March 3 – April 3, 2016


Tess Bilhartz Purple Nights

March 3rd-April 3rd, 2016 @ Arts+Leisure

Opening reception Thursday, March 3rd, 7 to 10 PM.


Arts+Leisure is pleased to present Purple Nights, a new series of paintings by Tess Bilhartz.


Two women cruise the high desert looking for enlightenment. Instead they encounter blood and dark energy, time and again finding themselves caught in their own headlights. In Purple Nights, Tess Bilhartz’ serialized account of West Texas misadventure, the painter retraces miles of highway, the same stretches traveled by Sal and Dean, by Thelma and Louise, while keeping the window cracked to the spiritual vortex of the desert night. Done with a self-reflexive awareness of the American road, these paintings flicker between the expected and the unknown like the broken white line slicing the highway in half.


Painted on panels so loaded with gesso that they soak up color like ink in a cheap paperback, or like blood in sand, the paintings composing Purple Nights show different moments in a dreamlike story. Some are close-ups—in which the narrative frame and that of the painting are one and the same—but most are divided into separate moments set apart by thin white borders. These crisp limits tease the viewer with the expectation of chronology, of temporal or narrative resolution. They stand apart from the painterly action they contain, pulling taut the series’ central tension. On one end: the linear narrative of the highway search, how it matches the defined form of the road itself. On the other: all that weird darkness off to the sides, or just beyond the headlights.


Populated by mysterious characters shifting in darkened locales, Purple Nights refracts the teleology of the road trip back on itself, crushes it into windshield crystals scattered on the rumble strips, diffuses it wide in a blinding lens flare. Things aren’t as they seem. POVs shift from the subconscious to the cinematic. Everything is flush with cantina-light, the type that darkens the closer you get to dawn, to what you’re looking for.


Tess Bilhartz grew up in Dallas, Texas. She received her BA from Haverford College and her MFA in Painting from Boston University. She has participated in group exhibitions at Arts+Leisure, Lesley Heller Workspace, Bannerette, and the Spring/Break Art Show. In 2013 she was awarded a residency at the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (then Marie Walsh Sharpe). She participated in the DNA Summer Residency Program in 2015. She lives and works in Brooklyn.


Please join us at the opening reception on Thursday, March 3rd from 7-10 PM. Refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact Nick Lawrence at nick@freightandvolume.com.