Buzzed-About Brooklyn Artist Zane Lewis Reborn as an Abstract Painter at London’s Art16 Fair

Apr 26, 2016 8:35PM

For every “30 Under 30,” there’s a “Child Stars: Where Are They Now?” It’s only natural to wonder what becomes of the brightest talents after the initial rush of recognition.

In the case of the Brooklyn-based artist Zane Lewis, that question—where is he now?—has a noteworthy answer. He’s nowhere near where he started.

At 23, Lewis burst onto New York’s art scene with his pop culture–inspired “drip paintings” featuring the likes of President Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, and Brangelina. In 2006, Lewis was even one of the featured artists in a Wall Street Journal article fittingly titled “The 23-Year-Old Masters.” (Subheadline: “Hot art market stokes prices for artists barely out of teens.”)

But that was then. “I sort of had to kill off the artist I used to be,” Lewis told Wallpaper in 2015. “I’m trying to make the purest work I can so it has to come completely from the edge....I’m just a vessel or conduit producing that energy.”

You won’t spot any presidents or movie stars in Lewis’ newest abstract paintings, on view at The Dot Project’s booth at Art16 in London. (The event also happens to be the gallery’s first showing at an art fair.) His vibrant new works glitter like starbursts or the electric night sky. Though rendered in dazzling neon with a granular texture, the lacquer paintings nevertheless call to mind Rothko. Closer inspection reveals that, even in abstraction, Lewis’s application of paint is tightly controlled.

He achieves this effect with a street artist’s abandon. “I paint in a very direct way...almost like a boxing match,” he has said. “There’s no other distractions in the room, the entire space is a big spray booth, and it’s this battle between me and the canvas.”

Lewis’ style may have transformed in the past decade, but it’s clear that some elements haven’t changed—namely, his discipline, creative drive, and high level of productivity. He’s a prolific painter, a fact that’s reflected in the sheer quantity of work displayed at The Dot Project’s booth, which includes two large-scale works alongside dozens of smaller paintings (“mementos,” Lewis calls them). The mini-exhibition marks a new page in the artist’s much-talked-about oeuvre. It makes you wonder where he’ll be in 10 years—and 10 years after that.

—Bridget Gleeson

Zane Lewis’ work will be on view at The Dot Project’s Art16 booth, London, May 20–22, 2016.

Follow The Dot Project on Artsy.