In John Brosio’s new works, his subjects— elderly people in a moonscape, skeletons and wolves in a nature scene, a cook in a taco stand—are dwarfed by the immense scenery around them. They are small and insignificant, and yet they are holding their ground as citizens of these vast lands.
“There is nothing anyone can achieve without having to remember how small we are. Whatever is going on ‘out there’ is huge. And not just physically but psychologically and time-wise—all of it,” Brosio says from his California studio. “There was a Dutch painter named Jacob van Ruisdael whose images grabbed me in college for their use of scale and perspective, but I do not see any difference between that and the opening of the original Star Wars film where a mile-long spaceship comes in from overhead. Incidentally, one of my teachers was an artist named Richard Bunkall whose work very much reinforced these dynamics.”
Brosio, whose Los Angeles studio is close enough to Dodger Stadium to hear the crowds during games, will be presenting this new work beginning September 15 at Arcadia Contemporary at its new location in Pasadena, California.
“Each of the paintings exists within the confines of what might be a short story. And there is a lot of transition in this body of work. Much more of the work is made up, with far less reference, and that is definitely a direction into which I am moving,” the painter says. “You might detect nods to Albert Pinkham Ryder here and there. Some of these new works I can definitely point to and say, ‘that is my head. That is where I live.’ If you happen to revisit the imagery there is a piece [Tomorrow], for which the content is laid out on a game board. That is one such work. And many of the tornado paintings, which used to be quite large, are now rather small next to larger versions of these new ventures.”
In Tomorrow, realistically rendered homes and buildings are placed within a surreal board game landscape, where trees and bushes are two-dimensional cutouts and sidewalks are rainbow-colored game paths. In the sky are crude childlike drawings of creatures, as if to mimic a child’s doodling on a chalkboard. “There is a fakeness in it, a flatness, a huge colorful threat, definitely hardship, isolation, color, a black sky and an indication of game playing. I think of it as the extreme near future maybe. Maybe it has to do with outgrowing optimism. Not sure,” Brosio says, before admitting his own narrative is less important than the viewer’s. “That is one of those pieces where I would enjoy hearing what someone else thinks. But it is definitely very close to how I see the world, the gamut of things.”
Other works include Landing Party, featuring a retro rocket and a number of senior citizens who seem to be walking around it on the moon, and Taco Stand in Hell, in which the light from a small eatery does little
to illuminate through a blackish nightmare hellscape. “Living in a very busy city with too much stimuli can turn a small thing like a taco stand into an oasis. They are usually quite small and very unassuming,” he says. “I just felt like, ‘What if there was one in Hell—just by some magic—to give someone a tiny break.’ There are a few paintings I have done with taco stands and maybe more to come.”
The exhibition continues through September 30.
1Taco Stand in Hell, oil on canvas, 24 x 18"2Tomorrow, oil on canvas, 36 x 48"3Home, oil on canvas, 30 x 36"4Landing Party, oil on canvas, 21 x 16"