In its many incarnations throughout history, maritime art has seduced the art-lover’s palette by evoking feelings of passion for untamable blue waters and drawing parallels between nature’s vast oceans and our own timely existence. In his latest collection of works, LA-based painter Joshua Petker continues the tradition of this old world form via his unique perspective of the allure and the absurd. The exhibit, entitled ‘Adrift’, explores time, matter, and mortality in a way only Petker can.
In 2011 at Corey Helford Gallery, Petker made a striking impression in his solo show entitled Celluloid Constellations with his references to death, beauty, absurdity and the temporary. Kenneth Anger’s book, “Hollywood Babylon”, with its sordid tales of violence and glamour in the early days of Hollywood, inspired that collection of portraits. The exhibit marked a change from Petker’s previous work and introduced us to more conceptual elements in his paintings. The result was an impressive body of work capturing the complexities and fragility of life through glamorous icons.
Petker’s first solo show at LeBasse Projects is equally as stunning as it continues the artist’s exploration of finding the beauty in melancholia, this time through even more conceptual terms. Taking a cue from a quote by Anna Freud, "We are imprisoned in the realm of life, like a sailor on his tiny boat, on an infinite ocean", Petker uses the sea to personify the uncertainty of life.
The new collection of paintings isn’t connected by a particular narrative, but instead offers individual representations of our inevitable demise through nautical themes. Half sunken ships and solitary characters set against vast backgrounds evoke feelings of loneliness and mortality. Bold and vivid brushstrokes depicting the sea’s untamable waves conjure up notions of the romantic pursuit for the next horizon and the enigma of what lies ahead.
By mixing old world imagery with beautifully combined color techniques to examine life in all its absurdities, Petker successfully breaks the mold from his highly stylized portraits. His latest output signifies a distinct transition for the artist toward conceptual realms, as psychology and philosophy becomes the machine giving birth to the painted imagery. With ‘Adrift’, Petker simultaneously challenges himself as well as the viewer to delve deeper into our psyches and reflect upon the proverbial question: ‘Why are we here?”
All photos are courtesy of Carlos Gonzalez.