John Sonsini: Still Life Stories
1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Saturday, May 18 at 4:00 PM 6:00 PM
Ends Jun 29, 2024
"I don't think it happened all at once, but over a very short time, it occurred to me that the unfamiliarity I noticed when I returned to painting from life after the pandemic was that the absence of my sitters still hung in the air and I wanted to try to convey that." -John Sonsini Vielmetter Los Angeles is excited to present “Still Life Stories”, John Sonsini’s third solo exhibition with the gallery on view from May 18th through June 29th. For the last 30 years Sonsini has developed a practice that focuses on painting from life. He is most known for richly layered and nuanced portraits of day laborers whom he’d paint in his studio, many of whom became recurring subjects. During the pandemic, as Sonsini was unable to work with live sitters, this “social practice” (as the artists refers to it) was replaced by working in the studio in solitude. As a result, his work shifted and he began to focus on the objects in his studio creating still lives of his working table; the brushes, the cans of paint, and the objects left behind by his sitters. These mundane objects, offering themselves as readily available subjects, became a representation of the absence Sonsini felt while not being able to work with the sitters. Painted briskly in beautifully toned colors and confident brush marks, these objects have now metamorphized into portraits of a more subtle nature that hint at a human presence. In every mark, stroke, color, touch of light, wallet or belt, a presence is insinuated and the memory of a movement is expressed. However, rather than depicting the sitter and trying to translate nuances of their personality and mood into paint, Sonsini is now transferring this process to the objects left behind in the studio, bringing the work into a conversation with both the tradition of still life painting and with the formal investigations that the post-impressionists conveyed. The particular arrangement of objects, the play of light and shadow on their surfaces, and the increasingly abstracted marks of paint reflect the more ephemeral aspects of life. The formal aspect of still lives and the practical reasons why Sonsini began focusing his attention on them also apply to his recent watercolors in the exhibition. The watercolors similarly convey a sense of temporality and immediacy in their aesthetics. In 2023 Sonsini presented a new body of watercolors which were studies after his oil paintings. These new watercolors done from life are expeditious representations of sitters Sonsini has worked with for decades. Together these new works portray an artist whose confidence in his painterly mark making has enabled him to create extraordinary beauty and lightness from the studio’s quiet moments. John Sonsini was born in Rome, NY in 1950 and received his BA from California State University Northridge in 1975. His work will be the subject of a book written by David Pagel and published by Radius Books forthcoming in 2024. Recent solo exhibitions include “A Day’s Labor: Portraits by John Sonsini,” Art Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA; and “Daywork: Portraits,” Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA. His work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, UT; the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D. C. and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. John Sonsini, Still Life #9, 2024, Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
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