Adam Guy, courtesy of the artist and the Pace Gallery
Damian Loeb has the lowest level of vitamin D his doctor has ever seen. The 50-year-old painter, whose “Wishful Thinking” exhibit opens at the Palo Alto outpost of the Pace Gallery on May 19, has pale skin to the point of translucency from the 12 hours a day he takes. ‘he goes through his underground workshop in Tribeca. To address his lack of outdoor exposure, Loeb outfitted his workspace with screens showing camera feeds on his roof and throughout the house he shares with his wife Zoya and their two children.
It doesn’t help his vitamin D level, but it satisfies his fascination with surveillance, which is also evident in his large-scale hyperrealistic paintings, which over the past decade have focused on painstakingly detailed spatial landscapes. and astronomically precise. Using digital manipulations and collages of photographs taken from airplanes and the Hubble Telescope, Loeb brought the sensibility of romantic landscapes from the 19th century to the 21st century, replacing a JMW Turner seascape with the solar eclipse of 2017 and the Northern Lights. And just as the ocean represented the unexplored frontier in Turner’s day, Loeb’s brilliant cosmos invites viewers to consider the great beyond. “I wanted to do propaganda for places that I knew were going to be a hard pill to swallow,” Loeb said via Zoom one winter afternoon. “If we can’t figure out how to get our DNA somewhere else, we’ll die here.”
He’s not alone in this opinion, and with the opening of his next show in Silicon Valley, Loeb’s spacescapes are poised to pique the interest of those who plot what is possible for human existence. “We hope to put him at the feet of the people who have influence to influence these things …” Loeb pulls away. “I mean, Elon [Musk, a rumored collector of Loeb’s work] did so many things we were told impossible.
Once a enfant terrible of the art world, on the eve of his first solo exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1999, Loeb was described by the New York Times as “one of the hottest young things to strut the podium on this season.” Then he was arguably best known for his friendship with Moby and his broken engagement to writer Plum Sykes. “I spent a lot of time trying to actualize a fantasy that a Connecticut boy had about the art world in New York City, but, as literature and personal experience show, it was not. not what I thought it was, ”says Loeb, who taught himself to paint while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For the works in this exhibition, almost entirely produced during his forties, Loeb was inspired by the romantic mythology of Baroque painting. “I wanted to see if I could make these images of places that I knew were very inhospitable and apply that baroque lushness and beauty. A painting of Mars, titled Roman charity (after Rubens), is inspired by the eponymous work of Rubens, in which a woman breastfeeds her imprisoned and starving father. The Rubens’ bosom finds its parallel in Olympus Mons on Mars, the largest known volcano in the solar system. “I wanted to make sure I could paint it so that it looks like a breast from a distance, but when you get close to it, it’s kinda horrible.
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