James Roper processes the chaos of urbanity with his multilayered drawings. A simultaneous ode and social criticism, his latest body of work fixates on a cast of archetypical LA residents — an artist, a porn star, a gang member, a homeless “bag lady,” a celebrity publicist, etc. Roper’s exhibition “The Insceding Spiral” recently closed at Mirus Gallery in San Francisco — his first solo show in two years. The artist, who is also a script writer and filmmaker, imbues his drawings and paintings with narrative elements. But Roper doesn’t help viewers navigate the hectic hustle and bustle of city life — instead he puts the crazy on full volume, producing cacophonous images where translucent forms vie for our attention.
Working in the tradition of Italian Renaissance masters, the Milan-based artist Giuseppe Ciracì creates careful renderings of human anatomy, using pencil, oil and acrylic. Many of his pieces have an unfinished feel; often the faces of his human subjects appear half rendered in a detailed chiaroscuro, while the other half is left in white silhouette, as though the artist got distracted halfway through or were merely creating preparatory sketches.
While Rob and Christian Clayton (collectively known as the Clayton Brothers) are known for their color-saturated paintings of surreal characters, the artists shed their polished veneer in favor of quick drawings with a sense of immediacy for their upcoming show, “Open to the Public” at Mark Moore Gallery in LA. For the exhibition, the artists studied the peculiar microcosm of Sun Thrift Shop, a local second-hand store where trash becomes treasure. The Claytons present a series of assemblages and works on paper based on their documentation. They utilize not only found objects found at Sun Thrift, but sketches of customers who become warped through the brothers’ lens. Similarly to the ways thrift store shoppers find ways to repurpose used items, the Clayton Brothers offer a fresh perspective on what could easily be written off as shabby and mundane.
“I think that there is a lot to point out, and to work against in daily life, particularly with respect to American culture,” said Dane Patterson in an interview with Art Plural Gallery, where he had his last solo show in 2013. “We are creatures of habit and we can quickly fall into routine. We’re rarely aware of the way we compartmentalize everything in our lives, or have had things defined and compartmentalized for us.” His graphite drawings begin as documentations of daily life — but they evolve into strange hybrids of images intended to stir up the ritualistic qualities of our mundane existence. Patterson works from photographs in a process he describes as sculptural. First, he stages a scene, shoots it, and then combine the resulting photographic image with other sourced material to create a meticulous, surreal pencil drawing on paper.
British artist Joe Fenton infuses his immensely detailed graphite and mixed-media drawings of interplanetary iconography with inspiration from religious artifacts from centuries past — the ornate frames of gilded Orthodox icons, Tibetan Buddhist altars with their elaborate wood carvings. East and West come together in these large, fantastical works. Fenton is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, but his personal work tackles heavier topics. The artist says that much of his drawings explore the idea of death, namely the fear of death — an anxiety many appease through religion and spirituality. Fenton’s baroque, intense scenes are cramped with hellish visions and strange spirits, densely filling each page with deities and demons from a fantasy belief system rife with occult symbols.
Austrian-born Stefan Zsaitsits creates intricately-detailed and deranged works with a sense of humor. Take for instance “Puppet,” an uncommon portrait of fairytale icon Pinocchio — half of his sweet face is scratched off with harsh dark lines. His wooden arm seems worn and his one bulging eye shows a mix of fear and sadness. Other anonymous figures seem to come from sort of equally distorted children’s tale. If you line up Zsaitsits’s quirky characters in a row — a little boy with a still-feathered chicken in mouth, a Magritte-like figure with no face except glasses and a floating ear — they look like clues to a larger narrative where it seems things went comically wrong. The artist’s paintings look more somber and eerie in contrast with many severed body parts and depressing scenes. No matter the medium, the artist creates intriguing scenes that entice the viewer even while threatening to turn them away with unsettling details.