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Electric Caterpillar / Solo Show by Eric Sanders / Curated by Peter Frank / Eastern Projects, LA

"Electric Caterpillar"

Solo Exhibition by Eric Sanders

Curated by Peter Frank

Eastern Projects Gallery, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

September 1 - 30, 2023


Essay for the Exhibition Catalogue

Eric Sanders: The Digital Gesture

by Peter Frank

Eric Sanders is not afraid to push hard. He’s certainly not hesitant to go big, but Sanders’ painterly ambitions don’t rest on his biggest canvases, they rest everywhere. Making really small work is as challenging as making big; making ferocious shapes is as gratifying—to Sanders and his audience alike—as is making ecstatic shapes. Do it in the moment but for the world.

Thinking about and making paintings—or, if you would, pictures, or presences, or dramas or choreographies in paint—is what Sanders must do. He joins generations of go-for-broke pigment-flingers in roiling the pictorial “stage.” But equally, Sanders must argue with the conventions of painting even as he embraces them. There must be more, Sanders challenges the art form, the audience, and himself; where does painting end and the rest of life begin?

By now, computer technology has found its way into even the most traditional of studios. Everyone keeps records on a laptop, everyone applies to shows and researches artists on-line, everyone even uses digital means to enhance, if not generate, their art. Still, it’s not an easy marriage. So Sanders keeps it simple. Paint something. Photograph it (digitally, of course). Blow up the photo, or distort it with one or more of the ever-proliferating programs that deluge our visual awareness with elaborate additions and distortions. The image is now unleashed from the original, however it might maintain resemblances. Shoot, play with, print, repeat. Expand, shrink, find the “right” size for the image.

So, is Sanders treating his art (and art in general) as a parade of manipulated selfies? Not hardly. The painterly images he dials up and down and in and out are in fact elaborately manipulated—to a certain extent technically, but mostly visually. So much of Sanders’ prestidigitalism is an inquiry into optical presence—look what happens to the circle or the edge when we do this! Look how much more legible this writing becomes when zoomed in or fuzzed out. Nothing fancy, just dynamic and garage-band catchy.

Sanders betrays a street art aesthetic in his digital(ized) works, both in his willingness—eagerness—to push envelopes and frameworks and in his once-and-done approach to both painting and digitalizing paintings. He’s not afraid to be rude and crude on a visual level; he’s out for eyeshock. Interesting, isn’t it, that he gathers in and unfurls at least as much energy in his digital works—paintings once removed—as in his analog canvases and drawings. Sanders normally has several unrelated, even contradictory, groups of work cooking in the studio. The digital works inhere this willful eclecticism, to the point of almost comedic surprise: this painting looks so much more angsty in its computer-modified form, while that one looks so much more chill.

There’s a sense of intensification, of amplification, that powers Eric Sanders’ digital work. It’s not that his other modalities lack this focused bravado, but few can match the turned-to-12 rasp of his digital painting. Figuratively and literally, they’re live-wire—not just plugged-in or turned-on, but dyed and fried. This is some eye-banging stuff.

Los Angeles

August 2023

Video from the Opening Reception of "Electric Caterpillar" at Eastern Projects Gallery in Downtown, Los Angeles, September 9, 2023



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