The five paintings in Scott Greenwalt’s first solo show in Los Angeles take viewers back to the 1960s by way of the mind-blowing trips that acid made possible. But rather than inviting aging boomers to get all misty eyed about yesteryear, the San Francisco artist’s peculiar pictures at Weekend function like flashbacks gone bad.
The initial sense of familiarity they trigger in your lizard brain disintegrates as you slip past the point of no return into an absurd world unlike any you have ever visited — in body, mind or spirit.
All of the signs of Surrealist illustration — melting flesh, ghoulish heads and flashing starbursts — appear in Greenwalt’s elaborately detailed images. But the perfunctory, get-the-job-done mechanics of standard-issue Surrealism give way to an eccentric’s dyed-in-the-wool devotion to the physical pleasures of painting pictures — mixing colors, dipping brushes, gently stroking and slowly building compositions.
In a world of instantaneous communication, Greenwalt’s version of contemplative Surrealism sticks out like a sore thumb.
His anonymous portraits, fractured landscapes and discombobulated still lifes open onto cosmic wonders that are neither spectacular nor flashy but pointblank and plainspoken. Their insistence on the disquieting side of tranquillity is all the more potent for being homegrown.