Los Angeles Art Association is pleased to present Grip, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles based painter John Rosewall. Grip is both a noun and a verb. It means to take and keep a firm hold of something or to grasp tightly while simultaneously referencing a feeling or emotion as in to be gripped by… A grip, rather than to grip, references something is held in the hand, or for example a “tight grip.” The ambiguity and double entendre the word engenders is at the root of Rosewall’s paintings.
Seen in context of these definitions, Rosewall’s acrylic paintings both grip the viewer and illustrate the myriad ways people hold, or hold onto each other— be it a handshake, a pat on the back or a gesture of restraint. Each of Rosewall’s painting stems from the media and depicts altered images of violence culled from news photos. Painting them in muted colors, Rosewall reduces these appropriated images to their essential elements. Stripped of context, as Rosewall removes the background as well as any recognizable imagery or facial features, the scenarios become generic representations of violence taken for granted.
Most of Rosewall’s figures are anonymous– he rarely paints facial features– instead relies on gesture and implied bodily relationships. The act of aggression presented in painting such as Obedience and Cull (both 2016) depict two figures in the midst of a fight. In Cull one man has another in a chock hold. The victim, blindfolded by a thickly painted white sash, has an expression of anguish on his face. Only the strong muscular arms of his attacker are shown. Similarly, in Obedience, two figures tussle, their abstracted forms emerging from the deep black background. In Touch (2016) a disembodied black-gloved hand extends from a blue jacket resting on the back of a man wearing a stark white tank-top who faces the background void. Like Touch, Reach (2017) depicts the backside of a headset-wearing figure sitting in a chair facing a target on a computer screen. The man’s hand grips a red joystick.
The tight grip between two suited male figures shaking hands centered in Bargain (2017) clearly articulates the tensions Rosewall wants to present in these paintings. The works are about power, specifically the abuse of power and depict victims of violence, repression and exploitation. Through his painting, Rosewall communicates the reality of the human condition making aesthetic images that avoid the trap of aestheticizing violence.
John Rosewall, a self-taught artist living in Northeast Los Angeles, was born in Watsonville, California. He studied creative writing receiving a B.A. from UCLA (1984) and an M.A. from UC Davis (1986). Though he started out as a photographer making documentary style images, he later moved into abstraction and is now making quasi-representational paintings derived from news photographs. He states, he is “distilling the images into emblematic representations of violence, injustice, and oppression, with the aim of critiquing systems of power in the United States and abroad.”
Rosewall’s works have been presented as solo exhibitions at L.A. Artcore Brewery Annex (2014), haleARTS Space (2013), drkrm (2012) and The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Local and national group exhibitions include Incarceration at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (2017), Electric Salon, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (2013) as well as shows at I5 Gallery and the Basement (2004, 2003). Rosewall also maintains the Blog Terrain. Begun in 2012 Terrain is an “interpenetration of news, critical theory, photographic images, essay writing, and most of all, painting.”
For more information please visit www.johnrosewall.com