January 30, 2017

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be," acrylic, oil, spray, collage, graphite, and Styrofoam dust on birch panel

Here's a depiction of the Santa Ana River, part of my series on California.

A paved path runs along the river for miles and is great for cycling. You get lots of change-ups of landscape, varying from the most industrial and concrete to lush and packed with wildlife.

I cycle through and the thought that runs through my head, like an earworm, is the landscape tries, it really does.

A side note: It's getting wild in the world and I'm finding it difficult to concentrate onor justify doingart, among other things. Then again, I never went into art because it was relaxing but because I believe in the need for question raising and higher forms of beauty. I just learned that Shostakovich, the great Russian conductor, played on with just 14 starving artists, his Seventh Symphony, while the Nazis decimated Leningrad around him during WWII...

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

January 25, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #55: "Bridge the Gap"

"Bridge the Gap," 4x6in., oil on masonite

This weirdly vulvic scene, a day after the tyrant in the White House and his Boy Scouts signed an executive order for an anti-abortion global gag rule (can you even imagine a group of women coming together to do the comparable, affecting men's reproductive choices?), and two days after millions marched across the world to defend women's rights, actually comes more banally from a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

It's the view through a crevice and, in some sense, where it all started for me.  He, he.
Before taking this art thing as seriously as I do now, I was a translator, and before that a high school teacher, and before that a computer programmer, and before that a plasterer, etc. All this philandering because nothing really matched. Eventually, miserable, I thought deeply about what I enjoyed most when I was young and had the freedom to go with my gut, and voila, art!

An exercise in art classit must have been grade 9 or 10that for some reason stuck involved arranging a heap of stones into a pleasing composition and sketching it in greys. I remember thinking, hmm, hard and sometimes frustrating getting the tones and details right, but wonderfully gratifying. Amazing what a dirty stick of charcoal can accomplish.

Then came colour...

For this mini painting and others, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

January 24, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #54: "The Road Taken"

"The Road Taken," 5x5in., oil on masonite

You'd expect laneways in L.A. to be more Hollywood's portrayal of the alley, with fistfights, cat fights, and winos sleeping under boxes, but they're as charming and dignified as anywhere else I've seen them, especially during the day when the sun's out and casting all kinds of intriguing shadow geometries.

I once had a student, a woman, tell me it was fine for me to be traipsing through laneways in search of material but I didn't have security as a concern. I took her point and have been haunted by the observation ever since.

At the same time, I wonder if the ordinary throughfare with its cars and advertising and zombies locked to screens is any better. In busy cities these days, I'm always surprised how people keep laneways active in wholesome ways: kids playing ball, pedestrians and cyclists taking shortcuts, photobloggers snapping shots...

This laneway I found in the Jefferson Park neighbourhood of L.A. Wiki said it started as a wealthy area for whites but then saw an influx of Creoles (hence dubbed "Little New Orleans"), Japanese-Americans, and Latinos.

For this mini painting and others like it, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

January 17, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #53: "Once Removed"

"Once Removed," 5x5in., oil on masonite

The closest thing to living off the grid in Southern California is laying claim to a dusty patch of moon in the desert and sourcing a little water so the sun doesn't desiccate you in a half hour and leave the last drops in your bones to be sucked dry by snakes and scorpions.

We went to Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert a few weeks ago and while the place is mystical and U2-y, the rock formations and especially the Joshua trees magnetic and unreal, I couldn't stop wondering about all the cinder-block homes just off the main drag.  I didn't see anyone outdoors, so who knows who's in the homes, but there were heaps of scavenged objects and barking dogs, alongside beaten-up pickups.  I felt like I was in a junkyard, but somehow a creative one, arranged nicer.

I've always been biased about artists fighting to stay in cities, the centres of cultural production, but if you just can't make it in this world of endless dollar taking, it's nice to know a sizeable contingent of drop-outs awaits you in the desert.  In a brochure for a studio tour, I saw a lot of large-scale metalwork and sculpture in the vein of Simon Rodia, the builder of Watts Towers.  Kinda dreamy. 

This image, with some snow in the San Gregorio Mountain in the distance, was from behind the Visitor Center.

For this Mini in the Mail and others, see www.ivanostocco.com.

January 12, 2017

Together (No. 10)

"Together (No. 10)," acrylic on birch panel, 48x60in.

For today's painting, a biggie, back to the sweaty streets of Italy. Many visit and oh and ah but few have the composure and social skills to remain and manage well, unless perhaps they're from even more community-minded places.

This painting is number 10. I write the following about the series on my website:
This group of paintings explores an aspiration to regenerate public space and be, in a real sense, a good citizen.

Not to be grandiose about it but it comes out of reading and thinking about a handful of my intellectual heroes: the urbanist Jane Jacobs, the sociologist Richard Sennett, the philosopher/novelist Iris Murdoch, and the psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

The common thread linking these somewhat disparate big heads is a concern for civility, uniting the head and hands in work, and beauty as vital to the life lived well.

More personally, the series represents a desire of mine to embrace—as opportunity, cooperation, fellowship—the human throng found in public venues, rather than flee from the clamour and confusion and be alone.

As coping mechanisms, the works look at such qualities as grace and sprezzatura, a Renaissance term meaning lightness of manner and indirectness of communication. The pieces consider unselfing rather than individualism as a alternative path to personal and group freedom, perhaps a more Old World, Catholic-Jewish-Muslim outlook than Protestant.

Visually, Stephan Andrews has crept in, especially in the use of CMYK colours and effort to make art both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. The feel of street life in Italy, where I lived in 2015-16 and whose chaotic outdoor culture I struggled to manoeuvre, especially with young kids and no car and even if my own background is Italian, has also slipped in.

There's more to come, but in meantime why not pick through the images I've completed so far and let me know your thoughts, even if they're uncivil.
To pick through those images, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

January 10, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #52: "Telegraph Canyon"

"Telegraph Canyon," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Near us are the normally bone dry hills of Chino Hills, though I went in the other day and on account of the rain, it looked surprisingly olive, sprinkled with gold and ruby.

I didn't see the promised coyotes or bobcats but I did feel, creepily, eyes on me. Someone told me that the beasts are hungry at this time of year and descend the peaks in search of grub, so I was doubly on the alert. Someone also told me that if I was really worried, which I was, to wear a Halloween mask on backwards so that I wasn't pounced on from behind, but come on, I don't want to get shot or appear in the papers either.

This angle, interestingly, is from Telegraph Canyon, where wires whipped through past cows and goats and put the Pony Express mail service out of business.

For for this mini painting and others, telegraph over to www.ivanostocco.com.

January 5, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #51: "You get what you you pay for"

"You get what you pay for," 5x5in., oil on masonite

Happy new year!

Last week while the kids were off school, we did some tourism. Los Angeles isn't what it was during the Rodney King Riots or the Watts Riots, at least according to the books I've been reading, but it's still a pretty good showcase of flagrant income inequality.

I tend to turn my travels into research trips and so rather than shadow the latest guide, we went to Compton, Crenshaw, Watts, and the campus of the University of Southern California, where we sat on a bench in a courtyard of the art school and nibbled a sandwich under the watch of CCTV cameras.

Tuition at USC, at over $50k, is the highest in the US, more than Harvard or Yale.  Its endowment is $4.6 billion, twice that of the University of Toronto, though for far fewer students, and 886 times that of comparably sized Cal State Fullerton, where my historian flame teaches.  It's peaceful and quiet, the grounds manicured, with buildings that could step out of Renaissance Europe—and it's smack dab in South L.A. where gangs roam, poverty is plenteous, and the mostly black and brown residents are the least likely to gain access to it.

In many ways the university feels like a provocation.  Indeed the Klan, I read, burned crosses on the campus in the 1920s.  Throughout our pleasant jaunt through the grounds, we came across information panels on the school's mascot, a dog named George Tirebiter, and the many, many prestigious benefactors, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  But there was nothing we could find on the shadier history.

I don't know, presumably lessons are being taught in this institution of higher learning but what they are and for whose sake is, I have to think, not the sensical stuff we learn about in public school. 

For this mini painting and others like it, visit www.ivanostocco.com