Tony Pinto’s “Artist Seen” is a Homage to the LA Art Scene

Tony Pinto “Artist Seen” residency and solo show at Shoebox Projects. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Tony Pinto’s “Artist Seen” is a Homage to the LA Art Scene

By Genie Davis


Tony Pinto has created a dimensional series of portraits that depict the members of what he terms “my people, my tribe, my community – artists, gallerists, curators, critics and writers.”

Artists Seen is a vibrantly alive series based on photographs that Pinto takes, some posed, some candid. From the photos, he blows up large, beautiful prints, then draws from the print on wood, cutting the wood to fit the portrait. His final step is painting the piece.

“The large paintings are oil on wood, treated with gesso first, then cut into shape and mounted a couple of inches off the wall. The shadows created by the cut shape add an additional dynamic dimension and a sculptural quality to the work. The variability of the shadows adds a sense of liveliness to the work,” Pinto explains.

A skilled painter, his portraits are both realistic and poetic, capturing the essence of his subjects and shaping them as individuals and as a group, as vibrantly alive representatives of the arts community.

Of those Pinto depicts, the artist says “I like these people; they share my values, and creating this body of work reinforces my sense of connection and belonging to that community. This work is my way of documenting the relationships I have with these people, my connection to this specific world, and also claiming my membership within it.”

Pinto describes the intimate exhibition as revealing of his relationship with his subjects and as part of the larger art community. Each of the pieces is amazingly sculptural, popping off the walls, vibrating with life.

It’s fascinating to view Pinto’s process: the photographs he takes, carefully asking the subject, if posed, to turn one way or look another; the developed, blown-up photos themselves, evocative, joyful, and moody all at once; and last but not least, the finished art works. The images have something of the icon in them, perhaps it’s their creation in rich, lustrous oil on wood, or perhaps its due to the depth of the medium, the cut-out wood, the judicious use of shadows.

Although every piece follows the same artistic technique, each is still unique, some featuring more or less of a neck, a closer view of a face; some positioned as a profile, others more forward facing.

While there are a wide variety of photographic portraits of those in the art community on display, the seven finished works depict Alex Couwenberg, David Michael Lee, Andi Campognone, Jennifer Gunlock, Jane Magdelena Bauman, Kristine Schomaker, and Bradord J. Salamon. The subjects have a glow, a luminosity; they are both human and eternal. Their perfect detail, the etched quality of the shadows that Pinto captures, or perhaps the energy or essence of these individuals themselves together all create a strange sensation for viewers. Although these are not full body renderings, nonetheless viewing these works creates the strong impression that they are living beings and could come right off the wall and start a conversation.

And perhaps, having a conversation is what this exhibition is really all about – if they could talk, these real-life individuals would each talk enthusiastically about art, its meaning, their creations, their love of expression. Viewers can sense this.

Currently living in Anaheim Hills, Pinto works as an educator, designer and artist. This exhibition touches on all three areas of his professional life – the exceptionally lovely artistry of these pieces, the strategic, finely wrought design detail on them; and the instructive/illuminating quality of the work, as Pinto educates us about the beauty of faces and how people are linked together in a community of art and fellowship.

Pinto’s residency and exhibition at Shoebox Projects began in March, and culminates with a reception this coming weekend, April 29th and 30th at the Brewery Artwalk just east of downtown LA.

Shoebox Projects is located at 660 S. Ave. 21 unit 3 at the Brewery

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