Angst Lately: Paintings from Streaming Media in a Year of Avoiding COVID-19
A Solo Show by Steve Harlow
February 5 to March 28, 2021
What happens to art when the country is locked down?
As with most artists, spending long hours working in the studio is normal. COVID lockdown for me means I get all my supplies delivered and I have no social gatherings, no gallery openings, no Artist Guild meetings, no concerts, no restaurant meals. Outside activities are limited to daily exercise walks around my suburban neighborhood. Visual input is limited and repetitive. As a representational painter, I like to paint beauty I see. Within my pandemic- restricted activity, media, which for me is streaming media on a computer, is an important source of beauty.
The first half of 2020 I spent painting from scenes in the 2018 movie, “An Elephant Sitting Still.” This is the first and only movie by 28-year-old novelist Hu Bo, now deceased. I found in this movie a cast of characters I cared deeply for, in a sad, yet nostalgic setting, reminding me of my childhood home in urban Los Angeles. I gave these scenes the loosely painted, expressive treatment of the Bay Area Figurative painters of the 1950s, the ones, like David Park, Elmer Bischoff, and Richard Diebenkorn who led me into representational painting after my early grounding in abstract picture making.
In the second half of 2020 I began looking at streaming media through the lens of the broad culture of painting. I draw from new episodic dramas, old movies, new comedy shows, and YouTube channels, characters I genuinely respond to. I portray them using the language of other contemporary painters I admire such as Mark Bradford, Jenny Saville, Julie Mehretu, Kerry James Marshall, in conversation with modern masters like Berthe Morisot, Jacob Lawrence, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. “Abstractifying the subjects, reimagining in these paintings the dynamism of Abstract Expressionism,” as my friend and fellow Fresh Paint exhibiting artist, Jennifer Nelson, put it.
Stephen L. Harlow