March 31, 2017

In the Abstract (No. 5)

"In the Abstract (No. 5)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

I have a love-hate relationship with these fury fellers which borders on obsession.

My last run-in was a few weeks ago. I went for a jog in the hills, just after it had rained and the ground was covered in mud. I got lost, ran in circles, and returned just about to my starting point spent and dehydrated. I say just about because on the single dry trail connecting me back to my car and the water bottle inside of it, laid two large coyotes.

I flapped and yelled at them from a distance but they were in no hurry to go anywhere.  I threw a rock but that only seemed to anger them, the way their ears and tails went pointy. I waited, but so did they. I tried to stare them down, but their eyes were way freakier than mine.

In the end, I backed down and got off the trail. I cut through a football field of very prickly brush and cacti and shlomped through a foot deep of muck in my brand new, glowing white running shows.  Then, lost again, I climbed an embankment and cut over a massive military dam plastered in "no trespassing" signs.

Finally, a few miles later, I emerged covered in mud and thorns, with a tongue as a thick and dry as a fillet of salted cod, on a highway I'm pretty sure was banned to pedestrians.

The Road Runner passed with an anvil strapped to his back and I shouted, "Yeah, go get 'em."

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

March 30, 2017

Latest "Together," no. 12 in the series

"Together (No. 12)," 30x40in., acrylic on birch panel

Here's my latest "Together," my series of paintings that explores the advantages, strategies, and hopes of coexistence in urban environments.

In my recent trip to New York, riding the subway and walking the streets, I was surrounded by people at every turn, even if the snow was piled up and the wind blew icy. They were all strangers and yet talkative, jokey, not at all the pushy misanthropists I was expecting of New Yowkers.

Call me daft but the city felt strangely homey, the crowds out and about, on display, facing the same conditions in the same way.

For previous paintings in this series, check out www.ivanostocco.com/together.php.

Have an excellent Thursday!

March 28, 2017

In the Abstract (No. 4)

"In the Abstract (No. 4)," oil, acrylic, and spray on wood panel, 8x8in.

Another In the Abstract, fourth in the series.  I'm having fun with these.

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

Have a great Tuesday!

March 23, 2017

A New Series: "In the Abstract"

"In the Abstract (No. 3)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

Scattered around my studio are small proofs on off-cuts of panel, which they generally give me for free at the hardware store. Some of the experiments crumble, like one I made using a rough skin that sloughed off a palm tree, but others hold up, both materially and as abstract works.

The other day I was doing some cleaning and rather than chuck them in the bin as I normally do, I polished up a few of the promising ones, added humans, and came up with these paintings. I liked them enough I thought I'd do more and establish, if I can keep up the steam, a new series.

While I haven't thought it through, "In the Abstract," conceptually, has something to do with the condition of art today: purposefully ambiguous, cold and institutional, cynical, hyper individualist. I lament more than critique.


"In the Abstract (No. 2)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

I was in New York last week and got a chance to visit the big museums for the first time. I read recently that "The gateway drug is not creating art, it's experiencing it," and so that was what I had in mind.

While the galleries of abstract and conceptual art, especially of the lyrical sort, did captivate me in the way the artists used paint and other materials in new ways, I was struck by how little their work really had to say and how much of an art critic's thesis they had to push instead.

One panel at the MET explained how early abstract artists believed their art was more democratic because it could be experienced directly without a knowledge of art history or mediation by professionals, a theory I think most would agree has turned inside out.
"In the Abstract (No. 1)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

At MoMA, straddled between art that held on to something recognizable and art that threw it all to the wind, was a piece that held my attention for longer than usual, by David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican muralist, technical innovator, and political radical (of the Stalinist bastard sort).

"Collective Suicide," 49" x 6', lacquer on wood with applied sections, 1936

The title and themes may be harsh, but look at how the people and scenery have remained, and yet it isn't Bosch with his intricate renditions of hell, but rather uncompromisingly abstract, poured and dripped paint two decades before Pollack supposedly hit on the idea.

As Philip Guston exclaimed in another gallery, justifying his return to figuration and away from abstraction: "I got sick and tired of all that Purity! I wanted to tell stories." 

March 21, 2017

Latest out of the studio: "Fairy Trail"

"Fairy Trail," 24x24in., oil on aluminum

I try not to do sappy pieces but despite my best effort that's how this dude, I reckon, came out. Which has me troubled. Am I softening? Selling out? Caving in to the market for cheese? Letting the California of the booster seep in? Escaping from the real world into romanticism?

I should say I knew I was starting with questionable source imagery. But I thought, in the grand tradition of artists who can take just about anything and make it edgy, I'd try the same. So rather than canvas I worked on aluminum, an industrial material. And I tried even more unconventional tools than normal: branches, sandpaper, off-cuts of wood. I also worked with not just paint but different solvents.

Still, this, such a far cry from grimy, frenetic New York City to which I was whisked off and explored au flâneur for the first time hours after completing the painting.

Shot I took of the Bowery from the Manhattan Bridge on Sunday.

Incidentally, I'm breaking a cardinal rule, one my elementary school principal, Mr. Simpson, taught me when he detained me over lunch and made me write in the front lobby of the school like a bad piece of performance art, "I will not say bad things about my art," a hundred times over.

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

March 14, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #63: "The Yellow Prick Road"

"The Yellow Prick Road," 5x5in., oil on masonite


Bada bing bada boom.

One more mini before I head out to New York for the first time in my life. We were supposed to leave yesterday but our flight was cancelled on account of the blizzard. And here, in L.A., it's been in the low 30s (mid 80s) and a great time to see "super blooms," especially of cacti.

See you in a week!

March 13, 2017

Together (No. 11)

"Together (No. 11)," acrylic on birch panel, 30x40in.

A few months ago, I posted an image of Chris Burden's "Urban Light," a bunch of old lampposts salvaged from around L.A. and a permanent installation that stands in front of LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It somehow moved me, probably because there were so many people simply loitering and I'm sucker for a time when cities were designed for pedestrians.

In any case, this is the painting that came out of the visit, no. 11 in my series "Together," which, if you're up for it, you can read all about at www.ivanostocco.com/together.php.

Have a good one!

March 9, 2017

Still water sows together the tattered contours of the past

"Still water sows together the tattered contours of the past," 24x24in., mixed media on birch panel

How's that for a straightforward populist title? Just doing my part to "Make America Think Again."

I stole it from "Ithaca," by the poet Grigori Dashevsky, a Russian, of course:

Old rags are stronger than old life.
Night, like dead water, sows together
the tattered contours of the past. 
A stranger's death is a seed of your homeland,
sprouting from the graveyard statues,
from the clouds, forever still.

Shows in 2017 are coming together: San Diego, Beverly Hills, Del Mar, Toronto... Check out www.ivanostocco.com for more info.

Have a good one and peace out!

March 6, 2017

Latest in "Walls" series, "Do a Good Turn"

"Do a Good Turn," 36x48in., acrylic, spray, collage, sawdust, and oil on birch panel

A happy start of the week to you. And this painting, "Do a Good Turn," the latest in my "Walls" series, to set the tone.

I ran a lot on the weekend, including a half-marathon in the city of Redlands, meaning I had time to zone out and think, my version of meditation. 

Jobs and economies about which we think most of the time are made by buying and selling stuff, working for others under the threat that one's livelihood is yanked away, and generally focusing on the self. Communities, on the other hand, which I believe we yearn for but often take for granted and undernourish, depend on a conflicting outlook: a thousand unmeasurable and unremunerated good deeds, acts of reciprocity, and cooperation, risked often among strangers rather than comfortable acquaintances.

For this painting and the rest of the "Walls," check out www.ivanostocco.com.

March 1, 2017

Miniature in the Mail #62: "Life in the Real World"

"Life in the Real World," 5x5in., oil on masonite

It's hard times for those of us who care, who pay attention, who remember and haven't been desensitized.  Just maintaining a sense of humanity and a foot in reality has become a form of resistance.

I know social media is awash with urgings to read this and that doomsday piece and that the only way to keep your sanity is to filter most of it (my strategy, I'll be honest), but a piece in the Guardian by George Monbiot, who I'm not usually crazy about, hit me harder than usual. The short article, "Our greatest peril? Screening ourselves off from reality," somehow combines what I've been scared to death of politically with what I've been hoping to express with my art, and those concerns don't normally come together as nicely.

Monbiot writes, "The shrinking of our contact with the tangible world has taken place at a speed to which we struggle to adapt, with consequences we cannot yet grasp. The outdoor childhoodsurban or ruralthat people of my age enjoyed are seen by our children in the same light as extinct mastodons and public hangings: exotic, frightening and impossibly distant. For those who still see the rainbow arcing over the town while everyone else is buried in their phones, life in the real world can feel lonely."

If you manage to read the article, I'd be interested in knowing whether it affects you the same as it did me.

For this mini painting and others like it, all of which I work hard to experience beyond the screen in significant ways, check out www.ivanostocco.com.