Don’t Enter Room 237 : The Forbidden Art of Damian Loeb
by Matthew Bone on August 6, 2010
I don’t know if it’s the inertia of pop culture or the degradation of the general population’s interest in traditional culture, but somewhere along the way they both became one in the same. TV, tabloid, film, art, literature, and journalism have all become these subatomic particles bouncing around, colliding endlessly and feeding one another. Though the idea of lower brow idioms influencing what can be considered by many as high brow territory can be shunned by some, these cross-cultural bleeds can often lead to interesting and fantastic results. One of these junctions is where we find the wonderful, cinema fueled paintings of New York based painter Damian Loeb.
Loeb is a self-taught photorealist painter, and the arc of his career is littered with the re-appropriations of found images, both photographic and cinematic. His life was fundamentally changed like many of ours with his introduction to a galaxy far, far away. Of the film, Loeb says “ I spent my early years drawing pictures from Star Wars and even drawing myself into the film. So I froze these particular moments, but also wanted to be a part of the action.” This idea of stealing “paused” moments from film, and the borrowing of photographed elements from advertising and magazines has permeated much of his work. He has taken many parts of the cultural lexicon, and restated them in a way that now speaks to us about sorrow, loneliness, and anxiety, all the meanwhile using the visual language we are familiar with. Though heralded by many as a true craftsman and a genius, you would find as many detractors labeling his work plagiarism, and him a crook.
The artist’s work landed him in much trouble, taken to court various times for copyright infringement, his early paintings in particular were troublemakers for him. Large oil paintings composed of various found elements, collaged in, and recast into an almost surrealistic setting that were melancholy and haunting at the same time. These early set-backs only fueled Loeb into the upping the ante and creating a more breath taking, daring body of work, one based in the world of sci-fi and horror. Digitally compositing sometimes hundreds of stills he is able to recreate scenes that never were, or just never seen to large proportions, with some of his pieces topping out at 14 ft. long. Omitting any cliché icons, the painter is able to distill the “scene” to its most spartan, most elemental essence and use that to tell a story. Through his reinterpretation we are able to read the sentence sans proper names and nouns, and in turn are able to apply the atmosphere and feeling to ourselves; just hearing the faintest whisper of the film maker and Loeb, and left with our own thoughts echoing against the walls of room 237.
Now utilizing the language of cinematography and film to inform his vision, Damian Loeb has moved onto another chapter of his career, one where he’s finally creating images from his mind’s eye, and utilizing his photography as the basis. Still creating half remembered scenes from a story or memory long forgotten, his work maintains its ethereal atmosphere and its sense of alienation. Loeb’s work can be seen online at www.damianloeb.com, and is represented by Acquavelva Gallery in NYC.