On Saturday, February 25th, Corey Helford Gallery will premiere “Antisocial Network,” the first exhibition in Los Angeles in over a decade from one of the most renowned New Contemporary pop surrealists, Alex Gross. On display in CHG’s main gallery, the new collection from the Los Angeles-based artist features oil paintings, drawings and mixed media cabinet card paintings.
Although modern technology appears in only about half of the works, the multiple readings of this phrase apply to every piece in the exhibition. One interpretation gleaned from the new work is that social networks, both real and online, rather than bringing us closer, are in fact eroding our connections with one another, resulting in isolation, loneliness, and the inability to exist in the present.
Several paintings reference well-known corporate brands, but overall the work has a more intimate and personal slant than Gross’ previous exhibitions. In several pieces, figures are lost in thought, if not distracted by a phone or VR headset, then perhaps by their thoughts. In another, a young lady seems to contemplate her own mortality within a giant slurpee. Another floats aimlessly, lost in thought in the bath, alone but for a few rubber ducks. An attractive couple embrace while at the beach, but one of them appears to be quietly fading away. And a seeming bride-to-be cradles the head of her apparently android companion.
These paintings straddle the line between surreal dreamscape and incisive social commentary. The result is an intimate portrait of the modern condition in 2017. What the future holds for us as a species, and for our relationship to the world around us, is one of the key themes that unifies these unique and powerful paintings.
Juxtapoz: Has the political and social scope of your work changed considering the current political climate?
Alex Gross: Since the election wasn’t until November, the majority of the work in this exhibition was made prior to it. I’m also not a particularly political artist, although some would say that all art is a political statement. I would like to do at least a piece or two addressing the frightening new political landscape that we are facing in the U.S. but I don’t believe I’ve made that piece just yet. I do occasionally do some paintings that are political parodies. Hopefully I’ll do more soon, I already have an idea for one. Sometimes it can take awhile for the idea to come together, especially when one’s thoughts are clouded by strong emotions.
When you know you're going to fill a big gallery space like this, what are your first steps in preparation?
I don’t prepare my work based on where it’s going to be exhibited per se. Corey Helford Gallery certainly has much larger walls than any other gallery I’ve shown in, but that doesn’t mean I painted twice as large for this show. It just means I might need more paintings. Beyond a certain scale, my work would just take too long to make, and be too expensive as well. So, the paintings in this show cover a wide range of sizes, but it’s pretty much the same range that I’ve worked in for several years.
How and when did you come up with the name for the show, and does most of the work relate to that?
Coming up with a title for an exhibition is always a very difficult thing for me. In this case, I came up with it a few months ago. I would say that about half of the work seems to be pretty closely connected with technology and social media and our obsession with both. The other half of the work doesn’t necessarily deal with that, but it still fits somewhat cohesively with the other work because many of the themes are the same. Alienation, contemplation of mortality, loss, and the ubiquity of corporate propaganda are all ideas that are present throughout the entire show.
Are there differences when you show on the West Coast vs. the East Coast?
The main difference for me is that I don’t have to ship everything a month ahead of time and worry about whether or not it got there safely. Other than that, it’s nice for me because I live in L.A., so my friends here can come to the show. But people who live in either place can always see the work online.
What is your daily routine like? When you need a break from painting, where do you head?
My routine revolves around my two-year-old son and my work. I spend time with him in the mornings, and then try to work by 9 or 10am. Then, after lunch, I paint or work on new ideas all afternoon. Sometimes I will take breaks and play with him for awhile. Most days I also try to go outside and walk. I live in the hills, so walking around here is really good exercise. My son used to join me (on my shoulders) almost every day, but now that seems to be less often. I take off on Sundays and spend most of the day with him.
An opening reception for Antisocial Network will be held at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25th from 7-11pm.