Headed over to Wes Lang’s Brooklyn studio on Friday. Daylight filtered in from the street over walls resplendent with tattoo flash, hand-painted jackets, flags, and pics of beautiful women. Amazing paintings are everywhere you look. The first thing I said was “there’s a lot of nice tits on the wall.” Wes relaxed visibly and replied, “everybody likes tits, they’re calming.” That broke the ice. His new work emerged after losing several friends in the last year, and goes in a different direction from his well-known and controversial Americana work. It’s being shipped off this week to Galleri Brandstrup in Olso Norway.
The new body of work seems like a “fuck you” to death while simultaneously celebrating the lives of his missing friends. This painting was amazing in person, the black surface was super rich, and the bones are made from glazes of brown, red, gray and yellow.
The space resembles a fully decked-out biker bar, which makes sense, because Lang builds and rides custom motorcycles. He’s part of a group hosting the Brooklyn Invitational Bike Show at the Root, which opens on September 18th. Lang said that he’ll have a new custom bike on display during the show, and that it’s being hand-built by one of his good friends.
Lang finished this painting at 5am on Thursday after working all night. It’s hard to capture the layered colors of Wes’s technique in a photo, but the robe of this grim reaper is a deep translucent purplish-maroon with black folds. One interesting technical tidbit is that the canvases are primed with black gesso. If you look closely at the bottom right of the painting, you’ll see the black gesso.
When we first got inside the studio, before he really said anything (like it had been on his mind for a while) Wes touched up a painting. He put some red into the green skulls mouth.
Lang had a sign painting business before he was a well known artist. He’d drive around looking for beat-up signs to repaint, and said that having to get the signs perfect was why he learned to control his hand.
These drawings are a mixture of drawing, painting, air brush, and collage.
Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of Lang’s influences: “It’s hard to use what he did without it looking like what he did. After years of working on it, I’ve pushed through it.” Lang pointed out a few paintings that he started by using part of a Basquiat composition, which I was surprised by. He is into the history of painting in New York and mentioned Willem de Kooning.
The paintings are all done in acrylic. Wes pointed out that he studies oil painters and likes the way oil paint has aged on the New York School Ab-Ex paintings, and intentionally captures the slightly dead look of old oil paint in his work.