Preview: Nicola Verlato "Pagan Pop" @ Merry Karnowsky, LA

Sep 07, 2013 - Sep 28, 2013Merry Karnowsky, Los Angeles

Merry Karnowsky Gallery is proud to present Pagan Pop, a new exhibition by Juxtapoz featured artist Nicola Verlato. His latest exhibition is a touching revival of late medieval narrative painting and an homage to the lasting vitality of pagan elements that have survived not only the advent of monotheistic religions but also modernity.

The exhibition revolves around three large-scale paintings that, each in their own way, meld traditional narrative painting, classical themes and modern pop-culture. The first of these three is ‘Hunting the Haunted Painting’, which, according to Verlato, is based on, an actual haunted painting by an American artist in 1972. Rendered in the style of an early renaissance predella altar painting, Verlato evokes the moment in which the spirit of the artwork temporarily breaks free of its canvas prison and materializes in the kids’ room of a suburban home. The terrified children occupying the room are seen running for their mother, who has just torn open the door to the room only to be frozen in her tracks by the apparition. “This painting is a metaphor for the power of figurative painting, which, even today, after a couple of centuries of photography, TV and video games, is still able to bewitch the mind of modern viewers,” Verlato explains. This piece is part of larger project, which also includes a documentary by Greg Gibbs. (the story is documented in the new October 2013 issue of Juxtapoz.)

This theme of defiant antiquity reoccurs throughout his other works. Even in the second painting, ‘From Madonna to Madonna’ which depicts the triumph of modernity – the figure the Virgin Mary transplanted by her counterpart, Madonna the singer – the subject's moment of victory is rendered in the same mode of religious iconography. The singer’s nudity, and the grail and crucifixes piled at her feet, do little to dispel the notion that she has simply become a vessel for the old order. The show’s title piece, ‘Pagan Pop’, features a Satyr crucified on a tree as part of a display case at the Natural History Museum. Onlookers passively observe as a he spits a spout of flower petals from his mouth – symbolic of the defiant and “endless vitality of paganism”.

Verlato seems to suggest that although Western society has continually attempted to suppress its pagan roots, the old ways are always harder to erase than one might think. When one least expects it, they burst into flower once more.

Nicola Verlato
Pagan Pop
Sept 7—28, 2013
Merry Karnowsky Gallery
Los Angeles, CA