Emerging Selection 2010: L.A. painter Roni FELDMAN


Born in Los Angeles
Lives and works in Los Angeles

Find in this post
1/ “Roni Feldman, skillful and Subtle painter by Beatrice Chassepot
2/ Interview

Crescendo #2
Acrylic airbrushed on canvas – 36 x 48 inches
courtesy the artist


Roni Feldman’s works are unbelievable!  Born and based in Los Angeles, he recently completed his MFA (2008) at Claremont Graduate University.  Despite his young age, he shows in his work an impressive maturity. He exhibits great technical skill alongside profound themes.

When you first enter his studio, all of his paintings, from those a few inches wide to others that tower above your head, all appear to be black.  If you are French, as I am, at first you may think, “Hum… another Yves Klein whose process blue color fields has already been digested.” As an American, you might think, ?Sigh… another Robert Ryman whose “all white” paintings are excellent yet also have been absorbed.” So what makes Roni Feldman’s black paintings different?

Actually, very quickly, you come to a fascinating discovery.  By taking a few steps or moving to one side, you discover that the painting you are looking at is actually full of human hands. Hundreds of hands are painted everywhere across the canvas. These hands are opened and raised in your direction. The fingers are outstretched as if speaking to you, reaching to you, asking for something. It seems that, if you come too close to the canvas, these hands will catch you and swallow your entire body into to join them there, like piranha fishes in the Amazon would do. That piece is called “Crescendo” like an allusion to your crescendo feeling! The technique amazes, but also gives you a sense of danger.  At that point you need a break. As you regain your breath, you move a little and the painting hides its secrets again, transforming back into a peaceful black plane.

Group Hug Googolplex2
Group Hug Googolplex2


Roni Feldman’s technique is magical, perfect. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about it.

Beatrice Chassepot: – Could you explain your technique and the process?

Roni Feldman: – I create the Black Paintings with glossy black acrylic airbrushed on a matte black surface.  What appears to be white in the reproductions is actually very glossy black paint.  The imagery I paint is often invisible until viewed at certain angles.

I begin these works by taking photos of crowds of people, such as protests, concerts, or conventions.  My crowds have included people hugging, fighting, cheering, weeping, dancing, drinking, shopping, and dozens of other things.  Once I have all my photos, I use Adobe Photoshop to montage hundreds of them into a unified composition.   I digitally cut the figures out, make them bigger and smaller, and move them around until I capture the energy of the event I am depicting.  These compositions tend to be quite abstract.  I reference this montage as I airbrush the composition onto canvas.  It is the last time anyone will see the composition as a whole.

The reflective paint I use allows only a small section to be seen at a time, depending upon how high the painting is hung, the lighting, time of day, and the angle the viewer looks at the painting.  Moreover, the blurry nature of the airbrushed paint causes the figures to blend together.  It is hard to see where one ends and the next begins.  I carefully form tension between abstraction and representation so the paintings feel like they are ever-changing and require the viewer to actively move and engage with them.?

Beatrice Chassepot: – How did you get this idea of such a technique?

Roni Feldman:
“I have been interested in light-reactive work for a long time and also op-art that challenges an easy read.  Before my Black Paintings, I made what I called Albedo Paintings.  For them, I airbrushed white paint on white fabric.  They were invisible until exposed to ultraviolet blacklights, which made the fabric glow and the paint to appear dark against it.  Over the past ten years, I also experimented with many other luminescent materials such as glass, resins, and fluorescent paints, with varying degrees of success.  Eventually, an experiment with airbrushed varnish resulted in the Black Paintings.?

My reasons for light-based painting have changed a lot over time. I began by examining the sacred in everyday life.  That is still important to me, but my interests have expanded to explore collective consciousness, heightened awareness, liminality, and psychedelia. My work has become increasingly about perception, particularly the perception of things that cannot be seen.”

Beatrice Chassepot: – In an “ordinary” painting, the technique is one thing and the topic another. Concerning your work, topic and technique are totally blended in a whole. Do you agree with that?

Roni Feldman: – Thank you.  That is really important to me.  When I was a teenager, one of my favorite bands was Rancid, a punk band from the Bay Area.  The lead singer, Tim Armstrong had a raspy voice that sounds like broken glass and gravel.  Their street anthems were loud and fast, telling stories about drugs and violent youths in Oakland.  My life was nothing like theirs, but I admired how both form and content tied together so well.  Everything from the switch-blade vocals to the machine gun guitars told their stories as well as the lyrics did.  I would later find that my favorite artists tied form and content together so they felt inseparable, like one emanated from the other.

Beatrice Chassepot: – Why do you choose such a way of showing your thoughts?

Roni Feldman:
– That’s a good question.  Looking at art is so different from so much of contemporary culture. Art tends to be relatively contemplative. There is art out there that critiques issues– peace, for example­– and there is art that actualizes a peaceful state of being in its viewers, if even for a moment. It is the difference between saying and doing something. I think almost all art does one or both to a certain degree, but I try to balance the two.   I make art that explores the complex melee of contemporary culture, and at the same time incites a singular sensory experience.

Whereas Roni Feldman imposes upon his painting process a technical constraint, he has to find very strong topics to. Actually his topics are complex, meaningful and seem to come from far away from the Great History or from collective fears or environmental disasters.

In the same time, as Roni Feldman has very strong thoughts to express, he chooses this special tactful technique to not disturb the viewer too much, like an extreme politeness attitude. Whenever you want to ignore those crowds, those hands or people drawn on the canvas, you move just a little and you go back to a plain black canvas.

No doubt, dear Readers, you must be curious and go to experience Roni Feldman’s art.

Beatrice Chassepot
Los Angeles, October 4th, 2010