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The Recent Paintings of Gus Van Sant

Vito Schnabel Projects, in New York, presents Gus Van Sant: Recent Paintings, Hollywood Boulevard, an exhibition of new works by Los Angeles-based artist and auteur Gus Van Sant (b. 1952, Louisville, Kentucky). On view is a series of large-scale watercolors on stretched linen that collapse dreamlike impressions of urban Los Angeles with specific narratives inspired by the people and events Van Sant has observed since establishing his home in the city in the 1970s.

Admired internationally as a filmmaker, painter, photographer, and musician, Van Sant received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in 1975. Since that time his studio painting practice has moved in and out of the foreground of a multi-disciplinary career, becoming a priority again over recent years. Van Sant’s work in different mediums is united by a single overarching interest in portraying people on the fringes of society. In this exhibition, dreamlike hybridized scenes depict male nudes in shimmering, fractured cityscapes—obscure objects of desire whose presence suggests a mythological dimension hovering within the everyday world.

Gus Van Sant, Untitled (Hollywood 11), 2018-2019, Watercolor on linen, 84 x 62 inches. © Gus Van Sant; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Projects
Gus Van Sant, Untitled (Hollywood 1), 2018-2019, Watercolor on linen, 84 x 66 inches. © Gus Van Sant; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Projects

Many of the paintings on view in the exhibition feature a solitary young man striding past, standing before, or slumping beside a driverless automobile. Roads, buildings, vehicles, and body parts dissolve into one another, yielding a persistent sense of displacement that is heightened by Van Sant’s palette of pale pastels punctuated by deftly placed lines and spots of vivid color. Defined brushstrokes and carefully rendered details give way to veils and washes on linen, resulting in a deceptively gentle mien that seduces and then confounds. The erotic and unsettling effects of these scenes recall the words of Van Sant’s multi-disciplinary predecessor, the filmmaker, painter, poet, novelist, designer, and playwright Jean Cocteau: “I’ve always preferred mythology to history. History is truth that becomes an illusion. Mythology is an illusion that becomes reality.”

Van Sant’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland, Le Case d’Arte in Milan, Italy, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, among others. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions since the 1980s, presenting drawings, paintings, photographs, video works, and writing. Among Van Sant’s many internationally acclaimed feature films are Milk (2008); Elephant (2003); Good Will Hunting (1997); My Own Private Idaho (1991); and Drugstore Cowboy (1989).

Gus Van Sant: Recent Paintings, Hollywood Boulevard continues Vito Schnabel Gallery’s engagement with multidisciplinary artists—including Van Sant, Laurie Anderson, and Tom Sachs, among others—at its spaces in New York and St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Gus Van Sant, Untitled (Hollywood 4), 2018-2019, Watercolor on linen, 84 x 66 inches. © Gus Van Sant; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Projects
Gus Van Sant, Untitled (Hollywood 16), 2018-2019, Watercolor on linen, 84 x 66 inches. © Gus Van Sant; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Projects

Recent Paintings, Hollywood Boulevard is Van Sant’s first solo painting exhibition in New York. It will be on view at Vito Schnabel Projects, 43 Clarkson Street, New York, NY, until November 1st, 2019.

Featured image: Installation view Gus Van Sant: Recent Paintings, Hollywood Boulevard, Vito Schnabel Projects, New York, 2019 © Gus Van Sant; Photo by Argenis Apolinario; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Projects

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