The New Real III

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Featuring Work by Brian Tull, Eric Zener, Erin Cone, Joel Daniel Phillips, Alex Hall and Kay Ruane

October 6 - November 17, 2018

Opening Reception: October 6th, 6-9 pm during the First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown

Tinney Contemporary is pleased to present The New Real III, the third installment of a series of contemporary realism exhibitions curated by Tinney Contemporary Gallery Director Sarah Wilson. This exhibition further explores the ongoing discourse of contemporary realist painting and its changing function within modern society. Featuring figurative work by both local and national artists, the exhibition offers fresh and unique perspectives on a long-standing tradition rooted in craftsmanship and technical mastery. 

There is a psychological dimension to each piece that runs as a common thread between the selected artists. Tull, Zener, Cone, Phillips, Hall, and Ruane invite the viewer to empathize with the characters, to step into their reality, thereby gaining new perspectives and experiences through the art. These works combine the accessibility of a straight-forward and unabstracted style with a careful attention to detail, allowing them to appeal to a wide range of viewers. 

These paintings each exist in the liminal space between illusion and reality. The exhibition provides a bold retort to the common criticism that contemporary realism lacks complexity. Conversely, the work pulls the viewer into a dialogue between artist and subject, examining the multifaceted nature of representative art and urging the viewer to do the same.

Brian Tull is a self-taught artist based in Nashville. His work is characterized by a strong sense of nostalgia that is expressed in the retro, all-American subject matter that provides a window into a story. The paintings provide a framework onto which the viewer might project a larger narrative that flows from a collective cultural memory. This nostalgia is apparent all the way down to the physical surface of the paintings, which are coated with a high-gloss lacquer that recalls the iconic shine of an American muscle car. Tull’s work allows for the interaction between two seemingly disparate traditions in painting—pop-art and realism—and provides a unique iconography of American culture.

Tull’s work has been shown nationally and internationally since 2000. His paintings can also be found in numerous private collections and museums in Tennessee and across the country.

Eric Zener is a self-taught painter from Encinitas, California. A self-described “super-realist,” Zener classifies his work with label “Contemporary Renaissance” in reference to his concern with craft and representational accuracy. Zener is fascinated by the cultural significance of water, as made evident by his choice of subject and setting. His mastery as a painter is visible in his deep understanding of the refractive and reflective properties of light in water as well as the accuracy with which he depicts the human figure.

Zener’s work has been exhibited in the US and internationally for over two decades. His work has been exhibited by numerous galleries, museums, and international residency programs. He has also received coverage from publications such as Robb ReportJuxtapozArt & AntiquesTravel & LeisureNew American PaintingsNew York MagazineThe San Francisco ChronicleArtNews Magazine, and more.   

Erin Cone is a visual artist based in Santa Fe, NM, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Cone’s work explores the tension between realism and abstraction. Her figurative pieces feature a female subject in plain, abstract backgrounds interrupted by what she calls a “vocabulary of visual glitches” that imbue additional meaning to the work. Void of the context of setting, the ambiguous nature of the pieces calls the viewer to engage with the painting and to bring his or her own experiences to their interpretation of the work.


Cone has had 22 solo exhibitions and has participated in numerous group shows since her start in 2001. Her work has been shown in the US and in Europe and has been consistently well-received by critics and collectors alike. Cone has been frequently featured in the press by the likes of PBS and American Art Collector Magazine among others. Her work can be found in collections across the country.

Joel Daniel Phillips is a visual artist originally from San Francisco who is currently a resident at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. Phillips’ work exemplifies the craft and tradition of the classical masters. Phillips turns his deft hands and precise pencil work to tell the stories of those he meets. This has a profound effect, as he works with a wide range of subjects and challenges the viewer’s notion of what is worth describing. Furthermore, Phillips uses drawing as a way to understand and connect with the world around him.

Phillips' work has been nationally recognized and has been shown at institutions such as The National Portrait Gallery, Tacoma Art Museum, The Art Museum of South Texas, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum and the Philbrook Museum of Art. His work is collected both publicly and privately. 

Alex Hall is a Nashville based visual artist. After receiving a degree in advertising from Middle Tennessee State University, Hall went into sales while maintaining his lifelong practice of painting. Hall’s figurative oil paintings offer a unique approach to contemporary realism that dabbles in the surreal and absurd. Striving to provide a visceral viewing experience, Hall deals in metaphors and ambiguity in order to allow the viewer to come to their own interpretations based on their individual perspectives. Yet, there is no doubt that the chaos and drama of the work resonates deeply with the modern viewer.


Hall’s work has been exhibited frequently across Tennessee since his debut exhibition in 2010. He has received coverage from numerous publications, including The TennesseanNashville Arts Magazine, and JUXTAPOZ.

Kay Ruane is a visual artist based in Cambridge, MA. Many of Ruane’s pieces are centered around a female subject, usually with her face obscured by hair or mask. Each piece is completed in black and white with interjections of color, which serve to draw the viewer to specific details that might otherwise go unnoticed or to grant additional meaning to a scene. The subject is often located near a window, through which different chaotic scenes are visible. A forest fire, a stag struck by a hunter’s arrow, and what appears to be a falling plane all stand in grim contrast to the tranquil scene inside the room. The ambiguity of Ruane’s subject invites the engagement of the viewer, who in turn is able to extrapolate the identity of the subject. 

Ruane’s paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries nationwide, including the Carnegie Museum, Lyons Weir Gallery, the Muscarelle Museum of Art, and the Jenkins Johnson Gallery. She has also received a plethora of grants and residencies and her work can be found in many private, public, and commercial collections.