October 30, 2018

Chicago "L"

Mixed media on birch panel, 48" x 36"
I was in Chicago for the first time this summer. It was only a few days but the downtown, and especially the roaring, steely subway, called the "L," really made an impression coming from the sea of highways known as L.A. All the pedestrians out and about in what was obviously the nicest windchill-free weather of the year, amid posters calling for Trump's ruination, had me singing, and thinking art.

I took a bunch of shots, sketched, and even grabbed some bits of this and that I could use for collage, and finally, months later, got around to making this.

It was supposed to flow out in a nice gentle breeze but every time I say that I get mired in all kinds of sweaty, unessential details and the work turns out more tentative and laboured than I want. I think it still has charm, especially when viewed in the flesh, but I've been telling myself for a while I really gotta quit the Rococo, work on my design essence, and pare it down.

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

October 11, 2018

And freedom devolved into excess

Mixed media on canvas, 90" x 60"
I was at an art show a few weeks ago and got to watch, over the course of four days, a muralist cover a wall from start to finish. The section he worked on was probably 12' x 40' and while he had everything worked out and his approach was very graphical, it was impressive to watch the way he knocked out the piece.

I managed to sell a little work of my own and as I'm wont to do, I put some of the cash right away into new materials just as soon as I was back home. The first of the supplies was a big piece of canvas and a pile of wood to make stretcher bars of a sort I could disassemble, fold, and transport in my relatively compact Mazda5.

I've been on a bird kick I don't quite understand and here's the work I managed to produce. It's a smothering panoply of cute little symbols of freedom, flapping about in every which direction over my typical urban backdrop. It's reminiscent, I think, of Hitchcock's The Birds, supposedly based on the Greek myth of the Furies, the female deities of vengeance. I like that connection given all the Kavanaugh BS and #MeToo in the news these days.

In real life rather than shrunken down on a screen in front of you, the painting's larger scale pulls you into its world more than you might expect, a bit like a stage set. Actually, it's a little eerie to stand beside, but that's a quality that appeals to me.

Anyway, I liked working this large so much that I'd like to do more, just need to think how not just in a material sense but also a conceptual one, because up-scaling does shift how you think about what to depict and why. On that point, more to come shortly.

Hope it's a great week!

For this and work like it, visit www.ivanostocco.com.

September 24, 2018


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.


[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.

August 22, 2018

Together (No. 17)

Acrylic on birch panel, 48" x 36"

Another one for the series, numero 17.

I've been dealing with some pretty extreme heat in my un-air-conditioned studio these days. Half of the drops on the painting are sweat.

The scene is Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, based on a doodle I did three years ago when we lived in Florence and happened to dug up recently in a sketchpad. If you don't know the station in all its modernist-rationalist-brutalist glory, it's where you're sure to find piles of people from every corner of the globe at all hours of the day.

Many Italians told me they disliked the station because shady things happened there and it was full of tourists, but they're whack.

I could never just pass through, even when I had a train to catch. I lingered in awe at the coordinated yet chaotic movement of human and machine, the polished marble floors, the metal lettering in uniquely Italian sans serif, and the gravely voice of the arrivals and departures announcer over the PA, a sure smoker. The place conjured in me the need to buy a newspaper, for some reason. Make sense of the day. Get an espresso. Fare la bella figura.

This and other "Together" paintings can be viewed at www.ivanostocco.com.

Keep on truckin'!