Curiosity and understanding of “Uncertainty” “Unsettled: Portraits by Peter Zokosky“ at Koplin Del Rio
I remember when I met Peter for the first time.
About 3 years ago, I went to an art show where my friends had art work in Long Beach. I was resting on a couch, playing with my cell phone when a man started talking to me. This man, who was enjoying the show with his wife, was tall and dressed in a clean button-up shirt, with grey hair and a sweet smile. My first impression of him was “The Gentleman”. He seemed like a nice and broad-minded person.
Peter is an artist who lives in Long Beach, and has also been an art professor at California State University, Long Beach. From this fall, Peter will be the chair of the MFA art department at Laguna College of Art and Design, an established figurative art school in Southern California. He is a skillful, educated, and talented artist. It surprised me when I first found out that his work is very mysterious and disturbing in some way. However, I saw more attraction in him and his work after that.
Peter Zokosky’s work is representative and figurative painting. The subjects that he often uses are: dummies, infants, monkeys and clowns. We have seen these objects in everyday life; but, everything in his painting produces a funny atmosphere. The paintings have a beautiful and sensitive brush touch and show stillness on the surface; but it seems like there are some mysterious, unknown, and nervous feelings hidden underneath the painting. I realized that the most of the objects do not have many facial expressions; not only on the dummies, but it is even hard to read the expressions on the infants’ faces. The margin in between the appearance and the inside confuses the viewers.
However, I assume that is Peter’s intension. It gives us an experience of the “confirmation of uncertainty” by expressing an unknown something through these mysterious objects.
The art show this year is called ”Unsettled: Portraits by Peter Zokosky”. His interest and concepts come all the way to the front with the title. I asked him what his show is going to be like at Koplin Del Rio.
Peter: “The title tells you that it is all portraits. I realized that for a long time I have been doing portraits and I am interested in depicting people’s faces. I find people very fascinating. All the time in the public, I see people’s faces and feel like “wow, I would love to paint that person’s face”. The whole idea behind the title “Unsettled” was that I was interested in the unresolved, not necessarily uncomfortable, but the quality that puts you a little off-balance. For some reason I find it a lot more interesting. I like a lot of my work to have a little bit of an unsettling, disturbing quality that sort of gets under your skin and makes you think about it little bit longer.”
Not only from the outside aesthetic, but having a little bit of the twisted ingredients in it catches people’s attention. He continues about some technical skills on painting the babies and creating the actual dummies.
Peter: “I use infants, but it is not because the babies are cute and adorable. I think that babies are creepy and weird looking. Their proportions are off and coordination is strange. The features are soft and it is kind of a challenge to paint. Same thing on the dummies. First, I went to the thrift stores and thought I would just buy some dummies, but I could not find one. So I have decided that it would be more interesting to make some dummies. I started to make some and dress them up. Then I make them pose and I paint.”
Another important characteristic of Peter’s painting is his skills. His well-refined traditional method is definitely an eye catching part of his work. I wonder what he thinks about the having technical abilities and the figurative art scene in Los Angeles.
Peter: “I think the figurative world in Los Angeles is getting much bigger and it is exciting. I have seen a lot of young painters who can paint really well. And we all have to start asking that question; “So, what are you going to do with the skills?” because sometimes if I see a painting that is skillfully done, I still want more. Skills are important I think, and the concept, that follows. I don’t think that you have to make it happen. Sensitivity starts to merge. I don’t have anything against the abstraction, but I do have something against the narrow minded approach. I think that is important to keep your options open.
What is the biggest attraction of what he does? And what is hidden underneath his curiosity?
Peter: “ Dummies and babies are not normally painted, but I think it is interesting to take the idea of portraiture, which is usually about specific individuals and showing that individual, and revealing some kind of underlining character. It is not a strategy or an idea, but it is just what interests me. As a kid, I always loved monsters, scary things, and unusual things. I guess it just stayed with me. I like the things that are unexpected. I like what happens when you approach something and don’t know what is going to happen, or you don’t know what the experience is going to be. It is to me more interesting than seeing a movie when you know what sort of story it is going to be. With the painting, you can have some sort of unexpected aspects, and I think it is richer that way.”
A lot of times, kids ask their parents many different types of questions. Peter seems like he never finishes his investigation of life’s mysteries, and is always searching for new answers. His work has a combination of purity and creepiness that brings about a dense quality of unsettling imagery.
The artist, Peter Zokosky’s new art show “Unsettled: Portraits by Peter Zokosky” will be shown at Koplin Del Rio on June 28th for a month. Come and experience the unknown and mysterious wonder world of Peter Zokosky.
Peter Zokosky: Unsettled: Portraits by Peter Zokosky
Exhibition dates: June 28 – July 26, 2014
Reception for the artist: Saturday, June 28th, 5pm-7pm.
Tuesday-Friday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm;
Saturday: 11:00 am – 5:30 pm
Public Contact: 310-836-9055