My first memory of Alex Gross' work was during the 2009 Blab! Show at Copro Gallery. There I came face to face with a massive painting that employed the religious imagery and consumerism subtext Gross is known for. Aptly titled Jozaikai (Purgatory), the work juxtaposed the symbols of evil (mainly a powerful goat figure and serpents) with the epitome of purity (a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes). Needless to say the art made a striking impression and I've been an admirer ever since, and when Alex invited me for a studio visit recently, I didn't think twice about being one of the first to view his work for an upcoming solo "Future Tense" at Jonathan LeVine Gallery. Upon entering his home in the Hollywood Hills, I was immediately greeted by canvases illustrating themes of globalization, consumerism, communication, or a lack thereof. Naturally, our conversation turned to the abundant use of modern technologies and how it's virtually impossible to elude these technologies without falling behind in society. Alex discussed many of his pieces with me while pointing out the repeated use of the smart phone. Having grown up in the same era, we soon bonded over simpler times: when phones had cords, television channels were changed manually, and people interacted with one another on a more personal level. I quickly became sentimental as it made me realize how fortunate I was to have experienced both existences.
My nostalgia continued as Alex revealed his latest cabinet card series, which were painted on antique Victorian photographs dating from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Using mixed media, Alex re-imagines the subjects of these portraits as pop culture characters from film, television or comics. All at various stages of completion, I stood in wonderment before such icons like Marge Simpson, Mystique (X-Men), and Dracula to name a few.
Near the end of the visit, Alex's lovely wife who's roughly seven months pregnant and completely radiant entered the room and we chatted a bit. Knowing this is their first child and that this child will face and grow accustomed to the modern technologies we'd just discussed, I asked in earnest, "How will you handle all this tech stuff with your son or daughter?". Alex paused for a moment and then replied, "That's a good question".
"Future Tense" runs through November 8th at Jonathan LeVine Gallery.