TODD CARPENTER "SKY WITHOUT ANGELS OR STARS"
In Todd Carpenter’s newest body of work, “Sky Without Angels or Stars” the artist investigates the nuances of the Los Angeles landscape as ethereal identity rather than as a direct reference to any physical geographical markers. The implied landscapes do not represent actual places, but rather our perceived manifestations of how Los Angeles feels through light and shadow. Carpenter focuses on spatial relationships and our emotional responses to light, or lack thereof, without the distraction of incidental details. With layers of paint on panel, the crevices and impasto mirror the typography of his urban and rural landscapes as our eyes distinguish depth from the monochromatic depiction. This body of work endeavors to represent Los Angeles by showing not the particulars of its physical traits, but the illumination through which the city marks memories.
“There is no Los Angeles. The term “Los Angeles” is merely a reference to a group of ideas and feelings that people have towards a vaguely defined geographic area. It is not even a single idea: each person who thinks of Los Angeles is thinking of something different. It can be home or work, traffic or beaches, aspiration for success or a spot of ink on a map. To outsiders Los Angeles is a fantasy seen projected on screens, or a symbol onto which one projects fantasies of stardom. Perhaps the word refers more to the atmosphere then to the land beneath it: Los Angeles is the air that enters your body and becomes a part of your molecules when you are in a certain region of California. More than this, Los Angeles is the light that passes through it, the light not of the stars but of the sun, which allows one to see the city's varied landscapes and conveys the feeling what it is like to move across them.
Is it possible for painting to depict this vague mental construct called Los Angeles? With this current body of paintings, I am trying to express the essence of Los Angeles, to invoke its feel rather than its superficial characteristics. The works do not precisely depict particular parts of the city, for there are no specific details that are mandatory for a description. None of the streets, buildings, hills, forests, deserts, or beaches are necessary or sufficient for a depiction of Los Angeles, but taken together they might add up to something resembling the sense of what Los Angeles is. These paintings attempt to portray what it feels like to be in Los Angeles, or possibly what it feels like to dream of it. And these dreams are devoid of people, like empty stage sets not yet populated by stars, free from the judgment of Angelinos and waiting to be filled with the desires of the dreamer.
As a painter, I am particularly interested in how the depiction of light contributes to our experience of paintings. The portrayal of light enables a painting to convey depth and potentially also the feeling of being in a place. As the brain process lighting cues primarily through channels that carry only black and white information - as opposed to other regions of the visual system that use color and detail to distinguish specific objects - painting in black and white enables me to focus on spatial relationships and our emotional responses to spaces, without distraction by the incidental details of the thing depicted. So it is this body of work that endeavors to represent Los Angeles by showing not the particulars of its physical traits but the illumination through which the city marks our memories. These are paintings of air and light, for that is Los Angeles." – Todd Carpenter