"Face to Face: Flanders, Florence and Renaissance Painting" at the Huntington

The co-curators of "Face to Face:" Catherine Hess (left) and Paula Nutall (right)
with Hans Memling's "Portrait of a Man with a Coin of the Emperor Nero"
On loan from the collection of The Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

"Face to Face: Flanders, Florence and the Renaissance," which has just opened at the Huntington, is what co-curator Catherine Hess calls "A gem of a show of gems." It features 29 paintings and about six illuminated manuscripts by artists such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio drawn from The Huntington's collections and those of several other institutions in the United States and Europe. Beyond offering Los Angelenos the chance to inspect a choice selection of Northern and Italian Renaissance treasures the exhibition also offers up a point of view: that Northern European paintings had more of an influence on Florentine art of the same period than has been previously acknowledged.

The exhibition also showcases a momentous reunion: It is the first time viewers in the Los Angeles area will be able to see The Huntington's prized "Virgin and Child" (ca. 1460) by Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1400-1464) displayed alongside its companion diptych panel, "Portrait of Philippe de Croÿ," on loan from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. The pairing of the two panels is just one of many instances in the show in which groupings of works offer revelation and dialogue.

Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish, ca. 1400-1464). Left: Virgin and Child (ca. 1460).
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Right: Portrait of Philippe de Croÿ (ca. 1460)
The Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

During the press preview I attended -- led by the co-curators -- we started by looking over the re-united van der Weyden triptych. Since portraiture is a major theme of exhibition I certainly looked hard at the faces of both the Virgin and of Philippe de Croÿ, the patron of the diptych. The Virgin struck me as both lovely and a bit remote: she seems unconcerned as a just slightly rascally infant Christ fiddles with the clasp of her bible. The golden glow that surrounds her suggests that she inhabits a Byzantine conception of heaven, slightly softened and deepened.

Witnessing from the right is Philippe de Croÿ, a Burgundian nobleman who Paula recommended to us as "handsome." Philippe, who is believed to have been around 25 at the time he was painted, is rendered in a fastidious manner that is certainly a bit idealized. He is also -- like other early Flemish portraits -- somewhat lacking in emotional suggestion. Under the fine craquelure of the panel he resembles a finely molded doe-eyed doll with a distinctly aqualine nose. Seen in a 3/4 view Philippe's gaze acknowledges the presence of the Virgin but he is also poised to turn towards us and serve as a noble intermediary between sanctity and reality.

Detail: Portrait of Philippe de Croÿ (ca. 1460)
The Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

If Flemish painters of the mid-fifteenth century hadn't yet learned how to make their portraits convey psychological subtleties, they certainly get credit for their acute powers of observation. Van der Weyden gave a great deal of attention to Philip's praying hands, in which he found almost as much narrative potential as he had found in his features. Of course the artist may have painted the young nobleman with only cursory knowledge of the man's actual appearance.

Detail: Portrait of Philippe de Croÿ (ca. 1460)
The Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

After looking over both van der Weyden panels as best I could I felt my short attention span kicking in. A bit impatiently I looked to my right and spotted "Christ Blessing," an 1481 oil on panel by Hans Memling that is just a bit over a foot high. From a few yards away it seemed to radiate a vulnerable humanity that defied my expectations.

Hans Memling (ca. 1430-1494), Christ Blessing, 1481
oil on panel, 13 1/8 × 9 7/8 in.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Bequest of William A. Coolidge.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Upon approaching "Christ Blessing" I was struck its immense emotional subtlety. The face of Christ has a naturalistic softness that transmits a sense of knowing sadness: it moved and impressed me. But then I lowered my eyes and took in a detail that made the work come even more completely alive: Christ's hand rests on the edge of the frame in a virtuoso display of illusionistic oil painting.

Detail: Hans Memling (ca. 1430-1494), Christ Blessing, 1481

The image of the hand really got to me: it was an epiphany that alerted me not only to the genius of Memling but also to the "moment" that this show represents. A few short decades before Leonardo completed the Mona Lisa it is clear that his artistic predecessors in the north were doing the hard work that cleared the way for the astonishing presence of his art. The power of that subtle hand -- resting on the edge between illusion and reality -- strikes me as every bit as brilliant and memorable as the Mona Lisa's smile. It breaches the barriers between Memling's world and ours and demolishes time.

The pleasant shock of Memling's painting woke me up to the beauties of the rest of the work in the show. Although I am used to looking at contemporary art -- which often broadcasts its messages with great immediacy -- I found myself slowing down and scanning the 15th century works on view in their entirety hoping for more subtle moments. One thing that really struck me was the exhibition's portraits often contained images of landscapes and still lifes that hinted at the kinds of images that would emerge in later centuries as established genres.

For example I was very charmed by Gerard David's "Virgin with the Milk Soup." Apparently Flemish collectors were too as there are some seven versions of this image which carries iconographic suggestions of salvation and redemption. She is the serene prototype of the window-lit secular beauties that Vermeer would paint two centuries later.

Gerard David (ca. 1455-1523), Virgin with the Milk Soup, ca. 1510-15
oil on panel, 13 3/8 × 11 1/4 in.
Musei di Strada Nuova, Palazzo Bianco, Genoa.

David's "Virgin" struck me as containing a host of paintings within a painting. His sensitive rendering of the milk soup and bread has the candor of a Chardin still life. The tiny vase of flowers on the shelf above the Virgin -- the flowers are meant to denote both sorrow and compassion -- is an image that will bloom into full complexity and become a genre in the hands of later Dutch masters. The gated village scene visible through the window is like a tiny John Constable landscape.  

Detail: Gerard David (ca. 1455-1523), Virgin with the Milk Soup, ca. 1510-15

Detail: Gerard David (ca. 1455-1523), Virgin with the Milk Soup, ca. 1510-15

Detail: Gerard David (ca. 1455-1523), Virgin with the Milk Soup, ca. 1510-15

"Face to Face" powerfully reveals the particular charms and aspirations of Late 15th century Flemish painting. The earnest responsibility and piety in the faces of the saints and nobility depicted in Flemish art is very touching and the world that surrounds them is painted with enchanting freshness. According to Paula Nutall linseed oil had been used in Northern painting as far back as the 12th century -- it wasn't discovered by the Van Eycks as the Italian writer Vasari claimed -- and oil paint had given Flemish artists a command of effects and moods that Renaissance Italian artists were only just beginning to attempt.

In the show's final "face to face" a wealthy Florentine couple are immortalized in separate but matching frames. Painted in tempera by Domenico Ghirlandaio -- who once counted Michelangelo as one of his apprentices -- the panels display a solemnity and clarity that signals the unmistakable influence of Northern art. Seen up close they have the fine hatch marks that Italian masters used to achieve detail in tempera. In that respect Ghirlandaio was still a bit behind his Burgundian peers.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), "Portrait of a Man" and "Portrait of a Woman"
ca. 1490, tempera on panel, each is 20 3/8 × 15 5/8 in.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In the press release for "Face to Face" there is a quote from Michelangelo: he once said that Flemish paintings "will cause [the devout] to shed many tears." After seeing "Face to Face" you will have a broader sense of the power of Northern Renaissance art: and possibly you will leave the show with moist eyes as well.

"Face to Face: Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance Painting" 
Sept. 28, 2013--Jan. 13, 2014
The Huntington: Library, Art Collection and Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, California

Visitor Information:

The Huntington is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $20 adults, $15 seniors (65+), $12 students (ages 12-18 or with full-time student I.D.), $8 youth (ages 5-11), free for children under 5. Group rate, $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends: $23 adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, $8 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate, $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors with advance tickets on the first Thursday of each month. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org.

Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966

It's too bad that "Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966," won't be traveling to New York after it closes its run at San Francisco's De Young Museum on September 29th. The show will be seen at one more venue -- it will be at the Palm Springs Museum from October 26th through February 16th of next year -- but if it were to travel to Manhattan the exhibition would certainly create a boom in the art publishing industry: the history of American painting in the 1950s and 1960s would need to be re-written with Richard Diebenkorn and California postwar art occupying far more prominent positions.

"Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966"
With essays by Timothy Anglin Burgard, Steven Nash and Emma Acker.
During the same period when East Coast critics were lavishing praise on three successive movements -- Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Minimalism --  native Californian Richard Diebenkorn stayed on the West Coast hybridizing and synthesizing. He grappled with Abstract Expressionism on his own terms, barely noticed Pop and then infused his Ocean Park paintings with a respectful injection of Minimalism. The works Diebenkorn made during his years in Berkeley reflect his artistic dialogues with Edward Hopper, Northern Expressionism, the work of Bay Area colleagues and the French lineage represented by Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard.

Diebenkorn isn't a good candidate for a full biography as his bourgeois and stable personal life leaves little to gossip about but his mid-career paintings stand ready to reveal a great deal about his fascinating inner life. "The Berkeley Years" contains both masterpieces and quirky unresolved works: viewed in concert they offer revelations into the artist's thought processes and predilections. This exhibition is especially precious in the sense that it displays tensions and doubts that were later increasingly veiled behind a screen of privacy in the emotionally opaque Ocean Park series.

I had planned to wait to see the show until it came to Palm Springs but fortunately my friend Mitchell Johnson convinced me that I need to get on a plane and see it sooner. Mitchell, a painter who has looked very acutely at modern and contemporary painting, sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago telling me the show had affected him deeply. The chance to walk through the show with Mitchell proved irresistible and I booked my flight.

Mitchell Johnson with his painting "The Fence," 2010, oil on linen, 84 x 56 inches
Photo: John Seed
The show begins with Diebenkorn's abstract "Berkeley" series which responds mainly to the Abstract Expressionist models provided by the pioneering artists Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning. As Mitchell and I scanned these works it became clear that they were that Diebenkorn had a very different temperament than the avant grade pioneers he was influenced by. Mitchell Johnson's observation is that "Diebenkorn is the introverted foil to the attack you see in Clyfford Still's egomaniacal work."

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Berkeley #44, 1955 Oil on canvas, 59 x 64 in. (149.9 x 162.6 cm)
Private collection © 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. All rights reserved.
I think Mitchell has it right. Even when Diebenkorn was flinging paint or applying it with some degree of frenzy there is always a sense of schematic restraint in his compositions. Diebenkorn's works lack the elevated confidence of fanaticism and the finesse of charlatanism. His relatively even tempered "Berkeley" canvases are tempered by a sense of intellectual and emotional reticence that is lacking in De Kooning's oedipal tantrums and Still's brutal crags. To put it another way, Diebenkorn appears to have had some principled doubts about action painting, but he gave it a try and his work gained confidence and vitality from his engagement with it.

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
"Figure on a Porch," 1959, Oil on canvas, 57 x 62 in. (144.8 x 157.5 cm)
Oakland Museum of California, gift of the Anonymous Donor Program of the American Federation of the Arts, A60.35.5
© 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. All rights reserved.
By 1955 Diebenkorn was experimenting with figuration, influenced by the contrarian return to the figure that his great friend David Park had made. "For someone who was intending to continue as an abstract painter I was clearly consorting with the wrong company," Diebenkorn later acknowledged. The representational paintings he made during the late 1950s and early 1960s show the influence of his Bay Area peers -- especially David Park and Elmer Bischoff -- and they remain Diebenkorn's most memorable and revealing works. In later years Diebenkorn spoke of the human figure having often been a "problem" that needed to be solved. Responding to the challenge of the figure eventually brought out some of Diebenkorn's most deft and elegant brushwork.

Making the figures "work" in their painted surroundings was always a positive problem and many of his solutions are brilliant and original. Sometimes Diebenkorn's formalist instincts overwhelmed his feelings about the figure and the resulting paintings could be a bit chilly: during his lifetime Diebenkorn was often annoyed by what critics had to say about a perceived emotional distance between the artist and his human subjects. In truth, even some of his most beautiful figures emanate at least a hint of isolation.  I find Mitchell Johnson's take on this dynamic compelling:
The really great figures are so accessible and compelling in their composition, but they are also tragic. You feel the shapes surrounding the figures harnessing them into the composition but also pressing on them like weights of realization. They have an existential quality that separates them more and more clearly as time goes by from Diebenkorn's contemporaries.
Mitchell also feels strongly that Diebenkorn's sense of doubt was an essential quality: "I think this is the greatest message of his work: that on some level, the world doesn't deliver itself to you, it doesn't preexist. You make sense of it, you make your world."

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Interior with Doorway, 1962, Oil on canvas, 70 3/8 x 59 1/2 in. (178.8 x 151.1 cm)
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Henry D. Gilpin Fund, 1964.3
© 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. All rights reserved.
After Park's death in 1960 Diebenkorn seemed to find his own distinctive subject matter which began to include vacant interiors and views of urban landscapes. With the human figure absent absent Diebenkorn became more improvisational. One of the joys of the de Young show is to scan the surface of paintings like "Interior with Doorway" of 1962 and to see how the painting fell into place when the artist's final edits -- such as the dark fields of negative space around the folding chair -- cause the composition to lock into place. I couldn't stop looking at the gorgeous hints of colors pulsing through the chair's legs: they are traces of something beautiful that will never be fully revealed.

Detail of "Interior with Doorway."
Some of the paintings in "The Berkeley Years" show the mixed results that occurred as Diebenkorn felt free to experiment with his subject matter. There is a very odd painting of a cluttered table with a Guston-like hand holding a cigarette reaching towards it. There is also a stunning picture of a studio utility sink that is a masterpiece of zen brushwork. Diebenkorn's confident and masterful rendering of the zig-zagging drainpipes under the sink has more abstract vitality than most Franz Kline paintings.

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad, 1965, Oil on canvas, 73 x 84 in. (185.4 x 213.4 cm)
Private collection
© 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. All rights reserved.
After returning from a trip to Russia 1964 where he viewed the incomparable Matisse paintings on view at the Pushkin Museum and at the Hermitage Diebenkorn indulged in a final artistic apprenticeship, painting homages to Matisse including "Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad." Diebenkorn learned a great deal from this final deep exploration and was especially sensitive to the stylizations and abstract tendencies in Matisse's works. By 1966 Diebenkorn -- who knew when not to linger -- had absorbed what he needed to and was ready to move on.

As Mitchell and I were preparing to leave the exhibition we stood in the final room and looked through a wide doorway into the well lit gift shop crammed with shrink-wrapped catalogs and Diebenkorniana. To the left of the doorway was a lovely but fussy painting of the artist's wife: "Seated Figure with a Hat." To the right of the door was a brave but awkward figure of a standing female nude: "Nude on Blue Ground." The two paintings seemed to say the same thing: Diebenkorn had taken the figure towards two dead ends. In a perfect world "The Berkeley Years" would lead into last year's OCMA retrospective of the Ocean Park series and not the gift shop.

Picasso once said that "the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." In his final "Ocean Park" paintings Diebenkorn certainly did more to hide his sources: or it might be better to say that he absorbed and sublimated them. Behind the veils and scumbles of their surfaces are vestigial traces of the influences, problems and subjects that he grappled with during his years of living in Berkeley.

Like other successful painters Diebenkorn has inspired too many epigones: lesser Diebenkorns who have learned from his surfaces and subjects but not from his intellectual scrupulousness. I hope that serious painters who see "The Berkeley Years" will realize that what they need to borrow from Diebenkorn is the studiousness and patience with which he chose and learned from his peers and predecessors. They also need to pay close attention to the fact that at a certain point he subsumed his sources and became Richard Diebenkorn: an utterly unique figure. "Be yourself," Oscar Wilde advised, "everyone else is taken."

I honestly think that "Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966" is the best single show I have ever seen about an artist's career development. Diebenkorn was never part of the leading edge of American art but by thinking through a wide range of influences and ideas he ultimately out-distanced many of his showier peers. In an era when too many American artists began to believe the lofty praise that came their way Richard Diebenkorn managed to stay humble and curious. He had enough doubts about himself -- and about his art -- to be truly great.

 Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966
The de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Museum Hours
Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30 am-5:15 pm
Friday (March 29-November 29, 2013) 9:30 am-8:45 pm
Closed Mondays
Tuesday-Friday: $20 adults; $17 seniors; $16 college students with ID; $10 youths 6-17.

Nicola Verlato: "Pagan Pop" at Merry Karnowsky Gallery

At Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles painter Nicola Verlato is showing a suite of paintings that fantasize the many ways that pagan themes and elements might survive and reappear in contemporary society: in the exhibition's title painting a Satyr appears -- crucified -- as part of the display in a natural history museum. Dynamic, unsettling, and skillfully executed, Verlato's canvases dazzle and bewilder.

I recently interviewed Verlato, and asked him about his background, his subjects, and his views on art and culture.

Nicola Verlato: Photo by Yohko Verlato
John Seed Interviews Nicola Verlato

Nicola Verlato, "Pagan Pop," 70 x 50 inches, oil on linen
You have a remarkable background: how is it that you came to study at a young age with a monk/painter?

I grew up in a rural area in Northeastern Italy, between Verona and Vicenza. Even if we were basically isolated from the rest of the world, my parents had collected a lot of art books over the years. By the time I was seven, being very ambitious and quite stubborn, I wanted to learn to paint like Caravaggio, Correggio, Grunewald and Michelangelo, whose works I saw in those books.

That's when I started tormenting my parents to find someone, anyone, who could teach me to drawing and paint. Finally, a client of my family's winery said mentioned Fra Terenzio, a monk who taught people how to paint in his studio in the Franciscan monastery a few miles away.

I was nine then, but I still remember when I knocked on the door of his studio bringing my portfolio of drawings and a couple of paintings. Fra Terenzio opened the door and I said straight up: " I'm Nicola Verlato, and I want to become a painter!" He laughed, and for five consecutive summers I spent every single day in his studio.

Nicola Verlato, "Breaking Point I," 25 x 19 inches, oil on canvas
Tell me about some of the occupations and interests you had before you focused on painting at the age of 28.

At 28, I became interested in exploring the field of contemporary art. Until then I had been working as a painter on commission for aristocratic families and affluent foreigners in Venice.

Although painting has been my main occupation since I was a kid, I've always expanded my creative research into other fields. It's as if everything I have done up until now was a preparatory study for the larger scale projects on which I'm currently working.

Growing up I learned the lute, classic guitar, piano and composition at the conservatories of Verona and Padua, until I picked up the electric guitar, the bass and keyboards out of my love for rock music. I also studied Architecture at the University of Venice. Throughout my career, I've worked in music videos and advertising campaigns, as a stage designer and a concept artist, and I've also written and directed a few experimental videos.

In 1993 I started to use 3D programs in the process of making my paintings. With these programs, which I still use today, I can more effectively control complex perspectives and introduce elaborate geometries. Sculpting has always accompanied my paintings. I actually conceive my paintings mostly as sculptural groups. In fact, I prepare modeling maquettes in clay, as did Tintoretto and other Renaissance artists.

Nicola Verlato, "David," 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen (not in show)
What made you decide to come to the United States, and how has your work been received here?

Moving to the US had been something I had always wanted to do. From early on in my life, I realized that Europe was incapable of creating new popular mythologies, which are what gives us humans the enthusiasm and will to live. While Europe may have certain social structures that are more advanced, it lacks the driving force that this country possesses.

I would like my work to be seen as my contribution as a single artist to the ongoing process of myth making of our time. The plurality of media and of cultures constantly creates new myths in this country. It was only natural for me to move here, where my work has been very well received, particularly in Los Angeles, the myth-making capitol. One of the most exciting things is that I've found a large community of other artists who share many aspects of my work. Surprisingly many of them are younger than I am, which I consider to be a very good sign!

You often work with themes such as "How the West Was Won," "Hooligans," and "Bachelors." Where do these themes and ideas come from? 

 I'm deeply immerged in the same ideas that constantly float through my mind. A lot of my inspiration derives from music. For example the series of paintings "How the West Was Won" owes its title to a Led Zeppelin record.

"The Bachelors" instead references Duchamp's "Large Glass. In that series I imagined that the bachelors of "Large Glass" were getting rid of all the paraphernalia, which was pinning them to the first floor, so that they could actually climb to the second floor and copulate with the bride. It was a complicate metaphor of the energy of painting imprisoned by photography during the 20th century and it's coming back through 3D programs and videogames....

The bachelors were, if you want, a more intellectualized version of "Hooligans". They are a visual but also philosophical representation of the enduring power of figurative painting.

The "Hooligans" series was my first solo show in Milano. I wanted to express the crazy energy of those people who can be seen as the other side of heroism-that-was.

Nicola Verlato, "From Madonna to Madonna," 70 x 50 inches, oil on linen
Is it correct to say that Caravaggio is the artist who most profoundly influenced you?

Most definitely in the beginning, and yes, I'm still very, very fond of his work. I think that the way I perceived the essence of painting was when I first saw Caravaggio's work. I was only seven, I was flipping through the pages of an art book in my father's collection when I saw a picture of the painting "The Flagellation" (in Naples). It blew my mind. Clutching the book, I ran to my mother to share my discovery. I think it was the incredible power of that image, its presence, that struck my mind most. It was more alive than life itself.

Nicola Verlato, "Off the Grid," 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen
What does your work have to say about America and American culture?

I think most of my work is related to American culture. I enjoy playing with the possibility of celebrating it through the techniques of classical art. It's something that hasn't been done yet and I think now is the time to do it.

For me, American culture is all about the narrative arts: music, movies and TV shows, comic books and cartoons. These are all forms of Pop Culture. The realm of Fine Arts is sealed in an elitist prison in America, and thus in the rest of the world. This keeps art from participating in any substantial cultural process. It's as if the power and reach of art is frozen in a sort of limbo, while other media create narrative masterpieces. I believe that it is time to allow Fine Arts to work together with these narrations and to transform into permanent, iconic forms. This is what I am trying to do with the current creation of my monumental projects. These would be ideally located in the actual places where the mythic, legendary events that inspired them took place.

I believe that the reason this hiatus has been placed on the figurative arts lies in a suspicious attitude towards them. This stems from the Puritanical background of American culture. A similar process already happened over centuries during the Middle Ages in Europe and before then in Archaic Greece. So there's really nothing to worry about, there's still hope for change...

Nicola Verlato, "Banned," 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen
Your work is full of movement, dynamism and energy. Has it always been that way?

Yes! I hate figurative paintings in which nothing happens and where no stories are told. They seem to be the figurative version of abstract art. But while abstract art doesn't include any figures at all, these figurative versions of abstract art use figures as a mere compositional tool. The artists who paint them expect to not generate any sort of emotional response in the viewer. In doing so, the have a much more negative effect figurative art than abstract art itself.

There are other reasons why I like to compose my paintings in very dynamic and energetic ways. In the end it's all about involving the viewer as much as possible in experiencing the impact of the story that my painting is telling. Painting, for me, is the crystallized version of story telling.

Nicola Verlato, "The Haunting of the Haunted Painting," 44 x 80 inches, oil on canvas
Tell me about your book. 

I'm very happy about my new book "From Verona with Rage" published by Gingko Press. It very accurately describes the evolutionary phase my carrier is in now. After creating a large selection of paintings over the last seven years, I'm beginning an exciting new chapter of larger scale projects that will involve painting, sculpture, architecture and music. As a sort of preview, the book illustrates this latest phase of mine by showcasing some of the materials I'm currently developing.

What else would you like people to know about you and your art?

 A couple of museums -- and although I'd like to I can't be more specific -- have recently reached out to me asking for shows of my new monumental work. I would say that, if you're interested in my work, stay tuned! I've just gotten started and there are gonna be a lot of surprises...

Nicola Verlato: Pagan Pop 
September 7-28, 2013
The Merry Karnowsky Gallery (Main Gallery)
170 S. La Brea Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036