This week we're going to talk about an artist whose visual language belongs to some other times in history, but whose narratives stem from the reality of our contemporary world. Our new Artist of the Week is Dan Witz, an American painter, street artist and a former musician. Although his style eventually emerged to become very specific, figurative and authentic, he began in the late '70s, painting hummingbirds in the streets of New York, which makes him one of the pioneers of Street Art. Still, when it comes to Street Art, his name is not on the tip of everyone's tongue, because even back then it was clear that his art was headed in a different direction (which didn't stop him from making some witty public interventions later on). He gradually started painting in a hyperrealistic manner, depicting people, alone or in groups, doing things that they usually do - when alone, and when in groups. The events and happenings that he chooses to represent are based on the way that young people live and spend their free time. Since punk-rock subculture had great influence over Dan Witz, the artist often represents riots, fights, parties etc. When he paints portraits of individuals, he also makes sure that the thematic frame remains in the domain of contemporary trends. One of his popular series was a set of paintings which depict people staring into their cell phones, in a strangely intimate, almost sacred atmosphere.
As you can see or as you already know, Dan Witz is a very skillful painter. However, what you perhaps don't know is that he used to play in bands in his twenties. So therefore, his connection with punk is not merely based on the disobedient attitude that most young people have, he used to live that way and play that way. As Witz said himself in one of the interviews published on his website, music has been and continues to be his source of inspiration. A very interesting thing relates punk, as a movement and counterculture, to the visual style that he has developed. Since he was studying art in the period when figurative painting was completely out of the question, painting the way that he does was actually considered rebellious: "You have to love the irony - modern art’s very genesis sprang from its rejection of academic realist painting; and now it’s the modernists who have become the establishment, and the realist painters a transgressive force for change". So, one of the greatest things that you'll find out about Dan Witz, is that his photorealistic works actually prove how punk definitely isn't dead.
Explaining a feeling is one of the hardest thins to accomplish, just like painting the human soul is almost impossible, at least when compared to painting physical features - at least according to Dan Witz. Still, what he aims to do is exactly that thing which he describes as hard, he aims to translate the feeling of being in a mosh pit, or being at a huge rave party. The way that these bodies touch each other and get mixed up in the crowd is supposed to depict a form of tension, yet the composition resembles the one found in Renaissance paintings, and in the end everything seems to be one long, delicate moment in slow motion. Thanks to some amazing, magical talent, Witz succeeds in making paintings that capture moments like photographs - but unlike those photographs that he uses to complete the paintings, they make the moments seem celestial, slow, like they belong to some other, parallel world. Dan Witz's upcoming show will feature these intricate paintings, and it will be hosted by Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York. The exact title of the exhibition is Mosh Pits, Raves and One Small Orgy. It will be on view from April 2nd through April 30th, 2016. And before that, just as a quick reminder, scroll down to see some of Dan Witz's famous public installations, made in the past few years.
Featured image: Dan Witz, portrait via Worcester Mag; Dan Witz - Hummingbird; Dan Witz - Lotus Lounge, 2010. All images used for illustrative purposes.
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