September 24, 2018

Lil

24" x 48", mixed media on birch panel
What to say about this one, except that the image was somehow etched in my head before I even started?

There are these weird half-vintage, half-prepubescent-teen bikes that Californians love.[1] They look good and signal the right message about fashion,[2] but they're clunky, heavy, with long handlebars and gummy tires. You normally find a dude with a beard and the most haute streetwear cutting wide arcs from side to side on one.

Then too there's that yearning to be out in nature while surrounded by concrete and advertising. I don't share the romantic stuff about being at one with the cruel phenomenon we call Mother Nature, but I do think a re-appreciation of wildlife, the source of our food ultimately, and everything else could go a long way to repairing some of the damage we've done to the environment.[3]

The painting was inspired by somewhere I happened to pass through in South-Central, looking for some sort of heart to L.A.

Notes:

[1] Robert Pogue Harrison, Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age (2014).
[2] Nidesh Lawtoo, The Phantom of the Ego: Modernism and the Mimetic Unconscious (2013).
[3] Robert Pogue Harrison, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (2008).

September 18, 2018

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

Mixed media on birch panel, 48" x 36"
Here's one I haven't posted yet but I managed to sell on the weekend at Kaaboo Del Mar.

The couple that bought it were into plants, growing and identifying them by their names, an increasingly rare skill I'd say as we become more physically detached from territory and our knowledge base flattens out. 

The painting is another one for my "Walls" series, where I look at the idea of the human-made and natural worlds colliding at hard lines and birthing new realities.

The highfalutin title is from Dante's first line of the Divine Comedy, completed in 1320: "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita" - "Midway through life's journey, I found myself in a dark forest, having lost the straightforward path" (my translation). If you know anything about the poem, the dark forest is the worst of all worlds (Hell) and the path from which Dante has deviated represents the old philosophical quest to live, in the midst of challenges, in the best possible way. It's a beautiful setup.

Anyway, I've been working on a novel about life in Florence at the end of the Renaissance and so all this old way of writing and thinking (actually, though, it's as fresh as anything we struggle with today, eerily so) has been swimming around in my head.

Now, where was that path?

September 9, 2018

The Ol' Razoo

Mixed media on canvas, 60" x 45"
Here's another largish one featuring hummingbirds in a state-of-the-art industrial setting.

I've been told that there are a lot less of the buzzing, shimmering streaks of colour than there used to be in Southern California, but I've never seen as many in my life, having grown up in cooler climes.

They show up everywhere a flower can grow: the mountain valley where the sun struggles to penetrate and green grows, coiffed suburban shrubs, and breaches in cement. If they were larger and shit as much, we'd equate them with pigeons.

You're not supposed to anthropomorphize wildlife but I can't help think every time I see a hummingbird (and it's always one, never the confederacy in my painting, silly me) it's mocking me, laughing inside, giving the razoo, as they said in the gilded era. "Oi, you dope down there, sweatin' on the hard concrete, shufflin' from machine to machine. So clunky in the way you move. Go on, get pissed! You think you can catch me?"

(Incidentally, I'm gearing up for Kaaboo Del Mar next week, pushing it in the sauna that is my studio, getting light headed.)

September 3, 2018

Mini #85: Rust Never Sleeps

5" x 5", oil on birch panel

This summer I drove 5,000 miles from L.A. to Toronto and back. One surprise was how radically the landscape changed over the Mississippi River. On the west side is, well, the West - light, package new, and dippity-do - while on the east side it's grime, history, and a bit of the fist.

This train sat idle somewhere on the border between Iowa and Illinois a ways from the soy fields and cows. It was a bit of a sad sight all blanketed in graffiti, snoozing. Trains once "opened up" the west, right behind guns and cowboys, and made Manifest Destiny and at least two superpower nations a reality.

Seems the latest-greatest comes along and we get all wild and modern, like teens hankering for a new pop hit. Then another technological miracle comes along and we move on, leaving the old to pollute the environment, community, home - or at least someone else's. Enough of that pollution and you create something like a junkyard dog that used to chase balls and fetch sticks, but not any longer.

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