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.