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Fairfield Porter

Fairfield Porter: Amherst and Other Places,” at Betty Cuningham Gallery (through May 24): As an observational painter who believed that modern art should have descended from Vuillard rather than Picasso, Fairfield Porter’s project was to find the inherent vitality within everyday settings. His paintings evoke a sort of studied carelessness—a  sprezzatura aesthetic, if you will—that eschews classical “finish” or bombastic facility in favor of a more open-ended and even vulnerable sensibility. Now, Betty Cuningham’s small exhibition of oil studies and drawings—eight of which, never before exhibited, were completed while Porter was a visiting artist at Amherst College in 1969–70—is a lesson in Porter at his most unguarded. Among these untitled campus and classroom vignettes are studies for major works such as Amherst Parking Lot No. 1. Also included is a larger, earlier, and far more developed painting,  Jerry (1955), a lovely portrait in which the artist’s obviously bored fourteen-year-old son sits at the breakfast table in necktie, slacks, and slippers. —AS