Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of Danny Fox's new paintings

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Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of Danny Fox's new paintings
Installation view of Danny Fox, The Sweet and Burning Hill. Photo: Dario Lasagni.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alexander Berggruen is presenting Danny Fox: The Sweet and Burning Hills. This exhibition runs by appointment only at the gallery, 1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY, 10075.

Danny Fox’s new paintings capture the conflicting spirit of the Hollywood Hills through boldly-rendered expressive portraiture, mystical elements, and allusions to smoke and fire. Fox blends domestic imagery with influences from his natural surroundings to create eerily striking articulations of the human psyche. In the show’s namesake 2019 painting The Sweet and Burning Hills, a figure lets a mask hang below her chin to reveal her face, seemingly indifferent to the fire-teeming background. The ghost-like transparent outline of her body suggests her transience within the burning environment, or perhaps she exists as a distant memory. As the figure is impermanent and atemporal, so too is the landscape immortalized in painting while burning to ash.

In Fox’s own words:

Moving from Downtown LA to the secluded and leafy hills of Hollywood I embarked on a new era and a new set of paintings and drawings. I changed my focus from the backdrop of the colorful city and more to the subject, but the sitters weren’t just sitting around on the street corners anymore, I had to find them and invite them into the studio. I asked myself, who lives in these Hills of floating houses and empty swimming pools? I found them floating themselves, down the isles of Gelson’s supermarket where an apple will cost you an arm. Stoned eye whites pink behind large black sunglasses at noon. Iced coffees rattle in the cup holders of SUVs. Whiling away the days in states of infatuation and welcoming the evening like a missed friend.

I have always used photographs as source material for figurative painting. In recent years the iPhone has been a well used tool, but I’ve always liked to look back to early Parisian studio photography, predominantly from the late 1800s. The erotic photographers of their day referenced classical paintings for the model poses, then the painters working at this time would buy these images in the form of early pornographic postcards and use them as painting and drawing reference, completing a feedback loop of visual reference. I decided that I wanted to create my own source material inspired by these images, so I worked with long time collaborator Kingsley Ifill on a book called Eye For A Sty, Tooth For The Roof. The book encapsulates the winter of 2019 in Beachwood Canyon. The paintings in this show derive from those images, figuratively speaking. However, once the figure is set, the painting then begins. You have to paint how it feels to live through it, the dry sting of wildfire smoke in your throat. Perfume in the bathroom. Oil dripping onto the dusty driveway, fruit bowls and ashtrays, coyotes and rattlesnakes. Looking back at these paintings now I’m struck at how simple they are. There are very little objects or furniture, just light passing through the trees onto the faces I now can’t forget.

The sweet and burning hills of Fox’s paintings and the complex characters within them are preserved in the artist’s broad brushstrokes. Many of the artist’s models lounge in poses reminiscent of canonical Renaissance odalisques. In Fox’s 2020 Tali and the Dragon, the brunette subject lies on her stomach next to a red ash tray, resting her head on her arms and looking over her shoulder with bloodshot eyes. Behind her, the wallpaper is scored with trees and a purple dragon. The dragon extends its wing off the wall to stroke the model’s hair as it breathes fire onto her, smoke lingering.

This exhibition marks Danny Fox’s first solo show with Alexander Berggruen, following his inclusion in the gallery’s group shows Animal Kingdom (June 26-August 29, 2020) and Words (October 11–November 26, 2019).

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