Joshua Nathanson: Labor Day

VSF is pleased to present Labor Day, a solo presentation of new painting by Los Angeles-based artist Joshua Nathanson, his first at VSF.


Inspired by the frenetic crowds of James Ensor, the vibrant color combinations of Henri Matisse, the cartoonish abjection of Philip Guston, and the back-lit aesthetics of computer drawing software, Nathanson’s paintings reinvent scene painting by disorienting public space and visual space into an exuberantly awkward saturnalia of present day leisure consumption.


Throughout the main gallery and project room, Labor Day includes both the (LA) Beach series, depicting the artist and friends relaxing on the beaches of Los Angeles, and the Americana series, depicting scenes sketched at The Americana shopping mall, a popular outdoor shopping mall and condominium complex in Glendale, California centered around a public green and gargantuan animated fountain. These contemporary scenes are represented with deadpan exuberance as a 2015 Los Angeles equivalent to The Island of La Grande Jatte of Seurat’s 1884 Paris, but a representation wherein the anxieties of contemporary Angelenos “at rest” take the place of the autonomous, leisurely Belle Epoqueans of Seurat.


Nathanson begins his image-making process with plein-air sketches of friends at leisure. In the studio, Nathanson uses iPad drawing apps, Photoshop, and inkjet printers to create studies from his plein-air sketches. These digital studies become the basis for paintings on canvas which mimic the digital textures and colors of the studies, executed with methods including acrylic brush painting, air- brushing, and drawing with oil sticks home-made by the artist on his kitchen stove.


The giddy technicolor of the paintings in the main room gives way to the stippled black and white works in the project room. The pared down effect of these colourless works gives evidence to how the works are made, trading the optical experience of frenetic color for high contrast value shifts akin to those found in op-art. Throughout the space, three pieces of furniture are offered for sitting, leaning, and crouching allowing the viewer to engage in the repose characterized by Nathanson’s paintings – a casual invitation to be at ease – if not just for a moment.



Joshua Nathanson (b. 1976 in Washington, D.C.) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received his MFA from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA, in 2006. Nathanson’s work has been exhibited locally and internationally at such establishments as ARNDT, Singapore; four81,NY; 356 S. Mission, Los Angeles, CA; and Pepin Moore (curated by Jonas Wood), Los Angeles, CA. During his undergraduate and graduate years, Nathanson studied under Mike Kelley, Christopher Williams, Liz Larner, Richard Hawkins, Haim Steinbeck, and Marilyn Minter. Upcoming solo shows include exhibitions at Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy; and Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK.