Acquavella is currently showing a rare exhibition of new works by painter Damien Loeb, featuring a series of paintings and sketches created over the past year, and focusing on Planet Earth’s unique position in the solar system. Titled SOL-D, the series of oil paintings and sketches take their inspiration from a series of photographs Loeb made over the past decade, digital images captured on airplane flights, stargazing, and satellite images that document the celestial atmospheres of Earth and beyond.
The translation between digital and analog has long been a fascination for Loeb, meticulously analyzing and retouching his photographs with digital editing software before using them as his model for painted canvases. The artist then takes these edited images, and spends months transferring them to canvas, allowing space for his own subtle embellishments and slight manipulations. The result is abstraction by a series of degrees, a body of work marked by its constant vacillation between taut photorealism and an embellished sense of detail.
With extended viewing, this attempt to hew so closely to such a mediated image ultimately results in the most surreal moments of the work. The clouds of Whittier (2013), for example, exhibit a seemingly impossible series of wrinkles and folds in their path across the piece, and the edited contrasts created by sunlight seem to break the work into two distinct depths, rather than a gradual flowing movement. It’s almost as if the work were composed from two separate images of cloud formations, taken at completely different times and lighting conditions.
Nearby, Loeb’s images of the moon display a remarkably nuanced sense of color and shade, contrasted by the slightly misshapen circumference of the orb. Despite all the tech-savvy to produce his models, Loeb is content to allow his own hand to express the poetry of the final image.
The resulting questions that Loeb’s work pose here are intriguing ones, examining what the act of creating something by hand truly signifies, whether it be a series of formal imperfections when weighed against the computer, or rather, a fetishized art object for the same reasons, valued for its failure to truly capture the world in minute detail. Either way, the celestial landscapes that Loeb selects make for a fitting parallel, taking the viewer outside of conventional surroundings to grasp at their own distance and abstraction.
Loeb’s show closes on April 11th.