I think it is no secret that most professional musicians do not enjoy the benefit of employer-provided health insurance, and that is just a shame, because it’s something everyone needs. Sadly, earlier this year, Roger Miret, vocalist for the legendary New York-based hardcore punk band Agnostic Front was diagnosed with cancer, and long road of tests and diagnoses lead to a complex surgery and lengthy hospital stay.
This past week, when a friend or coworker would ask me what I did over the weekend, or if I’d seen any good art lately, I felt like I had to qualify my response by first asking, “Well, do you know what a Mosh Pit is?” And usually that person would say that they did, or at least that they had some idea. The reason I had to ask was to put in context the exhibit I had just seen at the Jonathan Levine Gallery by contemporary hyper–realist painter Dan Witz, who is all about the mosh pit action. Nobody paints a pit like Dan Witz.
Mosh Pits, Raves and One Small Orgy is the latest series by the Mosh Pit Maestro, whose work we have been covering on The Gig for years already. With a career spanning over three decades Witz has evolved from being a pioneer of the street art movement to refining a studio practice that incorporates both digital and old master techniques. Influenced by the work of Renaissance painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, his large-scale oil paintings of rampant crowds embody a rebellious and provocative nature that’s heightened by a stunning hyperreal aesthetic. You can almost smell the sweat.
“I’m an academic realist painter, but I’m living in the 21st century, so I’m not going to be painting Roman soldiers invading, or some Gothic baroque composition…The highest aspiration of an academic realist painter are these big group figure paintings, and I’m using the hardcore scene as my subject.”
Seriously, Dan Witz is amazing.
In this new series of work, he continues to portray the frenetic motion of mosh pits but also expands upon his usual hardcore setting in a pair of works called Brite Nite, which depict rave scenes. As their luminous titles suggest, this atmospheric change has fostered a tonal shift, resulting in compositions that are euphoric and less physically aggressive. Witz further develops this notion in Small Orgy, an amorphous interlocking of nude figures in the midst of experiencing different stages of ecstasy. Sorry that I did not get a picture of the orgy, because too many people were standing in front of it, and I could not wait for them to move away.
I love this detail of Brite Nite 2 (above), which seems to indicate a flirtation between these two characters, each with an arm in the air, and freezes for eternity a moment of energy and emotion that I find completely compelling. Rave on!
While building upon established themes, Witz remains true to his skillful methods of conveying light, shadow, movement and depth. Mosh Pits, Raves and One Small Orgy exemplifies his renowned trompe l’oeil artistry, as well as his ability to epitomize the primordial instincts of his subjects.
I would like to add that Dan Witz seems like a very nice guy. Geoffrey took a selfie with him once about five years ago and now every time we see him, he always nods at G, or says Hi, even though he must meet a gazillion people. He is also supportive of other artists’ work, as we see him out at nearly every LeVine opening, and we go to most of them. Dan Witz!
Dan Witz’ Mosh Pits, Raves and One Small Orgy will be on Exhibit Through April 30th, 2016 at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District. While You are There do Check Out Erik Jones’ Twenty Sixteen, which Runs Concurrently in the Adjoining Gallery Space.
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.
“Grand Central Station”
Hot on the heels of their sensational, sold-out GG Allin Bobblehead, the toy geniuses over at Aggronautix announce preorders of their super-lifelike, super collectible homage to Joey “Shithead” Keithley of Canadian hardcore legends, DOA. Joey stands 7-inches tall and is made of colorful, lightweight polyresin. In a limited edition of just 1,000 pieces, don’t be left without one! Hardcore!
NOT SAFE FOR WORK! METAL!!!
Thanks to Vincent Cecolini and Liz Ciavarella of Metal Maniacs for the link!