Eric Nash: Western Noir
at Skidmore Contemporary Art / Los Angeles
“Western Noir,” an exhibition featuring Eric Nash’s newest paintings are currently on view at Skidmore Contemporary Art at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. At first glance, his work brings to mind “Old Hollywood” featuring a youthful, yet noir-infused Los Angeles: neon signs from historic Hollywood symbols, road signs and classic images of gas stations. Day-lit paintings such as La Cienega (featuring a crisp blue sky with an exit sign suggesting a new destination) conjure up memories of childhood road trips; getting back on the road at the crack of dawn after a night of respite brings promise of a new day.
Nash started painting when he was just three-and-a-half years old. Raised by academic parents, his artistic talent was encouraged and he was enrolled in a Saturday morning art class at a local university by the age of four. I had the chance to sit down with the artist for an interview.
Artillery: What inspired the road signs and gas stations?
Eric Nash: I was obsessed with lonely urban landscapes. I have always been fascinated with the open road and the freedom it implies, and I have always loved cities and highways. I wanted to recreate what I saw with the emotions that went with it. I wanted to tell stories based on places and moods and Iʼm still doing that. I can show you drawings of gas stations, signs or lonely street scenes going back to childhood. I did my ﬁrst highly realistic gas station at age 12 in fact.
I have to ask, were you inspired by the work of Ed Rusha and his book Twentysix Gasoline Stations?
Yes, Ed Rusha has been a life-long inspiration. He is the definitive West Coast/LA painter and artist. His direct simplicity but open-ended approach has always intrigued me—both figurative and conceptual—a balance between idea and craft, a rare combination. His iconic vocabulary, use of words and clean Los Angeles color palette seemed like a modern day extension of Edward Hopper whom I consider to be my root artist. Ruscha’s Standard (of a Standard station) was to me a modern step from Hopper’s early use of the gas station and the open road. The gas station is an oasis, a crossroads and in some sense the ultimate American place or icon.
When did the work of Hopper first attract your attention?
Edward Hopper was my first and biggest influence. His lonely urban street scenes and celebration of the ordinary as well as his use of light spoke to me very early, around age 12.
Tell me about your process as an artist?
I’ve spent a lifetime looking for the moments that speak to me. I like routine. So, for example, I drive into LA from Palm Springs, and I see the same things over and over again in a slightly different light or mood. I remember them. Usually I have a camera or iPhone, and I record them as a reference. But for me a photo is just a beginning. I have countless images that I comb through and those that stand out are put into a special folder. Once I decide on an image, I sketch it out in small scale to feel the cropping and proportions. Then I draw it on a canvas or a large sheet of paper. I like to jump right in with the first blocks of color or light and shadow to give it immediate life. I usually edit out unnecessary information and increase the drama or do something to make it “pop” in my mind.
What are your long-term goals for your art?
To create what I want to create. And if people like it, that’s even better. But as a life-long artist, I can say that it has to be true and soulful and about what youʼre interested in or it wonʼt work. So I just hope to remain soulful and honest and without pretense. Art is for the people and Iʼm one of those people.
“Western Noir” runs through November 23. Skidmore Contemporary Art is located at Bergamot Station Arts Center (D-2) 2525 Michigan Ave., in Santa Monica. http://www.skidmorecontemporaryart.com/ http://www.ericnashart.com/
all images courtesy Skidmore Contemporary Art