An L.A. Artist Critiques Our Distraction-Filled Digital Culture with Vibrant Multimedia Work

Jonathan Paul (aka D.O.C., Desire Obtain Cherish) has said making a painting is like writing a song: It requires various material, like instruments, to build a layered work rich with meaning. At UNIX Gallery in New York, “Servant To Infinite Distraction” combines resin, paint, and pills for his latest statement-making solo show.

“We are constantly inundated with visual stimulations and images and art and shows and music,” the L.A.-based artist has said. In his work, he addresses the role social media plays in our lives, particularly when paired with the fact that the online personas we create are constructs. “We become centaurs,” he has said, “creatures of how we present ourselves.” His work explores how these identities are created, which goes hand in hand with his look at what certain commodities signify about our culture at large.

Previous work includes pill capsules branded with logos from luxury fashion labels, and tabs of valium re-imagined as rosary beads. In his new show, The Feast of 1,000 Likes (2016) features pills encased in plexi, then arrayed like pixels on a screen or threads in a tapestry, forming the composite image of flowers in bloom. He evokes the storied tradition of still life painting, rendering flowers with pills like a 14th-century Dutch artist would with paint. An artist from the Middle Ages might use flowers as symbols for opulence and prosperity; for D.O.C., the busy pattern is evidence of overstimulation.

Driving with the Brakes On (2016) continues the same themes, but through photography. In the work, flurries of pink and white flowers crash into a pool of lavender liquid; the image rests uncomfortably atop 5,000 gelatin pills.

In large works on canvas, brushstrokes of bright colors chaotically overlap and collide, while oversized Klonopin tablets and flowers appear in unusual harmony. The show’s titular painting, Servant To Infinite Distraction (2016), is a complex, fragmented miniworld bursting with visual stimuli, including frolicking anime characters overwhelmed by brash, powerful brushstrokes. For those of us immersed in digital culture, its oversaturation feels familiar.


—Anna Furman


Desire Obtain Cherish: Servant To Infinite Distraction” is on view at UNIX Gallery, New York, May 5–Jun. 18, 2016.

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