October 11, 2017

Updated Conversation Piece

"Updated Conversation Piece," mixed media on birch panel, 36x48in.

Here's my latest work - acrylic, collage, spray, graphite, and oil on a hard wood surface.

I tried to be more free flowing and stream of consciousness with it, especially distorting the scene and making stuff up as I went along - a nice way to stay engaged and not preconceive the end.

The setting is Los Angeles, in particular the east end around Boyle Heights, but it's not a typical representation I hope, at least not so far as art goes.

The inspiration? A radio series I've been listening to on KCRW called There Goes the Neighborhood, all about gentrification in L.A. Also, another swimmingly seething Bukowski poem:

"Hello, How Are You?"

this fear of being what they are:

at least they are not out on the street, they
are careful to stay indoors, those
pasty mad who sit alone before their tv sets,
their lives full of canned, mutilated laughter.

their ideal neighborhood
of parked cars
of little green lawns
of little homes
the little doors that open and close
as their relatives visit
throughout the holidays
the doors closing
behind the dying who die so slowly
behind the dead who are still alive
in your quiet average neighborhood
of winding streets
of agony
of confusion
of horror
of fear
of ignorance.

a dog standing behind a fence.

a man silent at the window.

I always struggle with the titles of my work. I'm not one who can settle for "untitled," supposedly allowing the art to speak for itself, or for a descriptive title like "street corner" or "two people talking," which is obvious from the art and repetitive.

I was happy here to discover that "conversation piece" has an older root than a bizarre vase or haute couture hat that gets people talking. The term refers to a genre of painting that portrays people in genteel conversation, generally in utopian outdoor settings. Here's an example Wikipedia gives.

Arthur Devis, "Sir George and Lady Strickland in the Grounds of Boynton Hall," oil on canvas, 1751

My "updated" conversation piece conforms to the genre, only I've stripped out the gentility, brought verisimilitude to the environment, and used fantasy elements not to glamorize or sentimentalize but to reflect a certain precariousness and volatility in our world today.

For this painting and more of my artwork, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

August 22, 2017

Farmacia de los Nieto

"Farmacia de los Nieto," 18" x 24", mixed media on panel

I'm back in California and working the red tape to ready for the school year (that has already started, fer cryin' out loud) and to restore the loss of my wallet to a pickpocket-scoundrel in Barcelona, but my head is still across the ocean.

This was one of the last pieces I painted while away and managed to bring back in a suitcase. It's a charming though derelict building I found on the main drag of a small town in Castilla-La Mancha, a sort Spanish rust belt, or, maybe more accurately, dust bowl.

For some reason the colours reminded me of a travelling carnival rather than the pharmacy that it was, though I suppose for some those could go together.

For this and other works like it, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

August 10, 2017


"Quintet," 12x12in., oil on panel

Here's another square-foot piece I started a while ago and finished recently. It's a depiction of the hills at a very green moment near my home in Southern California. I love to hike and play the hilarious games "Watch out for the rattlesnake!" and "I think those coyotes are tracking us," but unfortunately I can't usually find anyone else to play with.

Just over a week left to go in the city of orxata and 10pm suppers. Think I'm preparing mentally for the return.

August 9, 2017

Muro toscano

"Muro toscano," 12x12in., oil on board

Something I started in Italy and finally got around to finishing up.

I used to love hanging around this spot overlooking Florence and watching people stretch and struggle to get a shot with the ugly wall out of the way. I was too lazy and just left her in.

For more warts and all, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

August 7, 2017

Plein air contest in Albalat dels Tarongers

This past weekend I participated in another painting contest, this time in the village of Albalat dels Tarongers, near Valencia.  It started at 9am and finished for a big group lunch of paella and beer at 1:30pm.  No luck winning a prize, but I had more fun than normal and I was totally relaxed painting in a bush away from the crowds, despite crazy burrs that got into my socks and pesky flies I think liked the smell of my paint.

Here I am.
My neighbour, Miguel, who took the first prize.
The scene.
My finished piece. 100cm x 81cm, acrylic on wood panel.

Next weekend will be my last weekend of pintura rápida before we return to L.A.  There's a lot lined up and I hope to go out on a bang.

For more paintings, visit www.ivanostocco.com.

August 2, 2017

Stuck in a Bad Conversation Next to a Good Conversation

"Stuck in a Bad Conversation Next to a Good Conversation," 18x24in., oil on birch panel

Not saying it's ever happened to me or anything, but it would be bothersome, as it seemed it was for the folks in this screwball composition I put together perambulating around Valencia.

For more paintings, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

Have a dandy Wednesday!

July 31, 2017

Cannons and canvas

Another bustling weekend, this time in Catalonia, a few hours by car north of our base in Valencia.

In the 1930s before World War II, Spain fought a civil war that pitted fascists/aristocrats (called Nationalists) against anarchists/socialists (called Republicans). The war was long, bloody, and irregular in many ways (the first and only time anarchists as an organized collective rose up, for example). The fascists won and ushered in almost 40 years of dictatorship. And today, still, the war is a sore spot verging on taboo to discuss in Spain.

The longest, largest, most decisive battle of the Spanish Civil War took place in the valley and surrounding mountains of the Ebro River. The Battle of the Ebro, as it was called, lasted for 115 days and according to one sign in an "interpretation centre," close to 300,000 combatants participated, including "international volunteers" on the Republican side.

Thanks to Germany and Italy, fascist in those days, but also countries like France and Britain which refused to intervene, the Nationalists were stocked with more heavy firepower over the course of the fighting and the Republicans, though supported by the Soviet Union, suffered casualties two to three times as high as did the fascists, depending on the sources.

Among the reasons for wanting to see the Ebro was that family on my spouse's side died in the war, not in this battle per se but in the buildup to it, fighting for the Republican cause.

The small town of Corbera d'Ebre goes back to pre-Roman times. It was completely destroyed during the battle. We poked through the ruins. The new Corbera that was rebuilt nearby has left the old town as it was as a reminder of the war.
Trenches are still visible all over.
A map installed by the International Brigade Memorial Trust, showing the locations of the British Battalion, the American Lincoln-Washington Battalion, and the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. These soldiers were not conscripts as in WWII, but volunteers who went to fight fascism before it was was official or even acceptable to do so. Many faced persecution when they returned home.
If you haven't seen Ken Loach's Land and Freedom, it's a great starting point

The next day, we made our way to a town on the coast called Vila-seca, where a "pintura rápida" contest was scheduled to take place. Was it ever a different world.

The town was celebrating its festes majors, its patron saint, and was in full party mood, despite insane heat.
We pulled in late and because the best spots had already been claimed, I was forced to work in the open sun, and in what turned out to be a funeral path, which meant I had to move elsewhere after an hour and freestyle from memory. Then a lot of drunk people were out earlier than is healthy and they threw beer at me. So, it was a frustrating experience and I didn't want  to hand in the half-finished work when it was due at 1pm.
But I did, just in case the jury was into a combination of naif and minimalism.
But no, they weren't. This got a prize.
And this, I believe, got the top prize.
Next weekend, if all goes well, I should be out at another contest and I'm already thinking about how to make it better. It will take me longer to recuperate before seeing more battle sites.

As always, check out www.ivanostocco.com for the latest.