L.A. Paintings represents Erik Olson's ongoing project with portraiture and is the culmination of several years of exploration and experimentation in his Düsseldorf studio and a period of intense production in Los Angeles. Portraying friends and colleagues as well as people he has an interest in, these bold, expressive paintings present the genre of portraiture as fluid as identity itself, offering a range of possibilities that lead us back to a central question: how do we define the individual in this present moment? In response, Olson posits these questions:
"Is it skin color? Is it gender or sexual orientation? Is it the place a person lives or where they are born? Is it religion or the ethnic group we belong to? Is it a Facebook profile or an Instagram post that defines us? Can you understand the human psyche through new innovations in neuroscience? The paintings answer
none of these questions, yet, I am trying to present in a concrete way what I see as some of the most pressing questions of our time - how do we define the individual and how will this shape our sense of identity over time?"
Olson's paintings range from objective, observation-based representations to half cropped or framed portraits to more abstract and obscured geometric formations. While all of the work is within the frame of a 'bust' or traditional head and shoulders presentation, each painting proceeds in dramatically different directions, highlighting the very malleable idea of identity. Color is both specific and vague. Likewise, brushstrokes both define observations and fall off into process-based mark-making. The work oscillates between portraying the individual in an analytic sense and a more intuitive approach, beyond knowledge.