Eric LoPresti


Four Corners
Watercolor and guache on paper
50×38″ 2016
What You Make It (Nuclear Submarine Burial)
Watercolor and guache on paper
50×38″ 2016


How does your work reflect, respond to, or intervene in the real? 

Paintings are tools for adjusting our eyes. Our world is complex and our society constantly changing, so how we perceive things (i.e. how we ingest information from the “real”) really matters. Paintings are a chance to tune our perception, so we can see things in a new way and come to new thoughts.

These two recent watercolors depict forgotten scenes from the Cold War: one shows an atomic explosion in the Nevada desert, the other shows used nuclear submarine reactors stacked in the desert of Eastern Washington state (near where I grew up). In both paintings I’ve imposed arrangements of color chips on the composition. For me, the chips are symbols of subjectivity, contemporary digital design and choice. I’m trying to imply that as viewers we have the ability to adjust the way we see these kinds of scenes, and that when we chose to do so, we might find something different than we might have expected.


How do you think about your work in relation to the history of particular forms, processes, or artistic genres that you work is inspired by?

My artwork pulls from a long tradition of representing the sublime – the simultaneous experience of the terrifying and the beautiful. European painters such as John Martin and J. M. W. Turner attempted to capture on canvas those “oh shit” moments when nature reveals its awesome power and we humans sense our minute scale within it. More recently American photographers such as Richard Misrach and Trevor Paglen have represented the technological or apocalyptic sublime by turning their lenses on the equally jaw-dropping landscapes of US military bases and industrial sites.

I build off this tradition, but in some ways depart from it as well. My paintings incorporate images of the American nuclear west in order to establish a sense of scale vs our environment and the wave of technology with which we are transforming our planet. But I often disrupt that imagery with formal elements like geometric lines, gradients and color chips. By juxtaposing abstract and representational components, I’m pushing my paintings into a conceptual space where the viewer can consider the ostensibly terrifying subject matter at a remove, and ask themselves: is there a way to see this differently?