Sunrise by the Sea (1990), acrylic on canvas, 61 by 73 inches.
  • Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery
  • Sunrise by the Sea (1990), acrylic on canvas, 61 by 73 inches.

You can see Michael Dailey's paintings at Greg Kucera Gallery.

They were the absolute burning stars of last night's First Thursday art walk in Pioneer Square. In person, Dailey's paintings glow and gleam and sparkle and transport. Their references are basic in the extreme: land, sea, and sky—mostly sky. You can't do them justice in JPEG form, but still, look at that.

Within a minute of walking into the gallery last night, I heard two separate groups of people reference Rothko, one exclaiming, "Rothko's chapel!" The comparison is half-apt—set side by side, you'd see that the paintings of Dailey and Rothko are not actually all that similar. But their magical effects are.

Dailey died in 2009. This exhibition from his estate surveys 50 years, including more than 40 works in oil and acrylic on canvas and paper. There are small paintings as well as a diptych so large, it's never been exhibited before. Kucera blew out the walls and devoted his entire space to Dailey.

Beach Series #5 (1981), 61 by 78 inches.
  • Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery
  • Beach Series #5 (1981), 61 by 78 inches.

To create the show, Kucera worked with Dailey's wife, Linda, and his daughter, Susanne. Given what's already been displayed and sold over the years, it's incredible that there was so much glorious material still available. But Dailey was prolific. Susanne told me he painted every day, with no exceptions on weekend, and that he'd only grudgingly skip the studio on Christmas. He painted and painted and painted.

But how did he get that glow? The shading is so deep, subtle, and smooth that you'd swear oils or airbrushing or soul-selling was involved. In fact, he used mostly acrylics after he was diagnosed with MS in the 1970s, he never used an airbrush, by all accounts he was not a servant of Satan, and the only thing we know is that he sometimes used very fine foam rollers, Linda told me.

"It's a real mystery," Kucera told me.

"He just kept going until it was right," Susanne said to me. Most of his paintings have many paintings underneath them. "He would not stop until it was right," she told me, "and sometimes that moment surprised even him."

See more recommended art shows right here. Two more great big juicy closeups of Dailey paintings are on the jump.

Drippy, like a Left Coast abstract expressionist.
  • JG
  • Drippy, like a Left Coast abstract expressionist.

While some people easily align Dailey with Rothko, a closer comparison is Bay Area figure Richard Diebenkorn. Kucera also told me Dailey loved John Frederick Kensett, the Hudson River School painter of luminous skies.