Being a veteran of the Orange County punk scene of the late seventies/early eighties, I’ve seen my share of the cultural phenomenon known as the mosh pit. With his background as a musician in New York’s downtown post-punk noise scene of the early 1980s, the paintings of artist Dan Witz will surely strike a chord in the heart of anyone with a similar cache of experiences via his new exhibit, Mosh Pits, Human and Otherwise, up now at the Jonathan Levine Gallery. This vibrant collection features large-scale oil paintings on canvas produced by Witz over the past ten years.
The Levine exhibit is his first show at the gallery, and also the first occasion that works in the Mosh Pit series have been exhibited together. With each painting being very unique, despite their shared subject matter, the mosh pit paintings are titled after the music venues where the concerts took place (such as NYC’s ABC No Rio), rather than the band for which the crowd was moshing. This manner of entitling the works adds an historical perspective for those who’ve been enmeshed in the surrounding culture.
Dan Witz’s paintings are striking in their realism. They really do look more like photographs than paintings and they contain fantastic illusions of light, shadow and depth. Dan was present at the exhibit’s opening reception and I got a chance to meet him. Sporting intricate tattoo sleeves on both arms that, with their dense, interwoven details, also look like mosh pits, he is a super cool and friendly guy. Dan explained that he starts each work from a photo, which is then digitally manipulated before traditional painting techniques are applied.
Additional works in the show represent Witz’s captivating portraiture, depicting isolated female subjects whose faces are illuminated by the screens of their mobile devices, as well as a group of paintings of figures inspired by erotic fetish subcultures. The “Otherwise” reference of the show’s title refers to how Witz expands on the concert crowd theme, including a painting of a herd of suit-wearing businessmen during rush hour in Grand Central Station, as well as non-human subjects such as a pack of fighting dogs and a writhing mass of rats. This is a really fun exhibit that I would recommend to music fans, fans of realist painting and anyone who’s ever personally been in the mosh pit!
Dan Witz: Mosh Pits runs through July 30, 2011 at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor (West of 10th Avenue) in New York. Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM.