Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
Oct 31, 2020 12:29AM

Erik Olson, Marfa, 2020, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

As the pandemic tethers us close to home, Calgary-born Erik Olson has unveiled a travelogue three years in the making of his 10,000-mile motorcycle odyssey through the storied places and dysfunctional underbelly of the United States.

"It started with an idea to paint a motorcycle at full 1:1 scale, sell the painting, buy the real thing and ride it down the west coast to L.A.," Olson writes in a digital version of his project.

"I began painting in my Düsseldorf studio in early 2017, creating two for good measure: one day and one night view. I left the background empty, like a blue screen, open to receive the yet-unknown things I’d see along the way."

Erik Olson, Washington, D.C. (Day), 2020, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

The project, which can be seen in the online viewing room of Luis De Jesus Los Angeles until Oct. 31, features paintings, photographs, video clips and excerpts from Olson's journal as he travels the perimeter of the United States. It is accompanied by a looped 1938 recording of Highway 61 Blues by Sampson Pittman and a quote from On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

The centrepiece is a series of pastel drawings in riotous colour atop identical black-and-white etchings of the motorbike. Showing everything from wildfire and sunny beaches to people sleeping on the street and protests in Washington, D.C., the drawings capture the country's varied geographies and unique voices, its complexities and contrasts, its myths and mythic failings.

Eric Olson, San Francisco, 2020, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

Olson bought his motorcycle in Vancouver, and headed down to California in April 2018. From there he crossed over to New Orleans and then up to Washington, D.C. The trip ended in September that same year.

The etchings were printed in Vancouver after his return. Olson added the pastel drawings during the COVID-19 lockdown when he was back in Germany.

Erik Olson, Wildfire, 2020, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

The project contains deeply personal moments, like his diary entry the day he heard sad news about a friend.

"Into the haze of L.A., to paint at La Brea, when I learned a friend, taken by madness, had taken her own life," he writes. "I had no choice but to go away from that, to continue, into the bacchanalia of America, that orgy of freedom, intoxicated by it. The endless road, through the states of mind, no stopping now." ■

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles