Noted L.A. artist changes up his palette for a new Santa Monica exhibit
By Michael Aushenker
Douglas C. Bloom has finally seen the light. It’s illuminating his forests.
Until recently, the painter has been obsessed with portraying the hard geometry of architectural interiors in his oil canvases.
With “Seismic Light,” which opened last weekend at Santa Monica’s Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Bloom embraces the great outdoors, even if his uninhabited woodlands seem more surreal and concerned with shadow and light than literal representations.
“These are more original than anything I have ever done,” Bloom said of his current creative shift.
Working from photographs, Bloom pushes and distorts to arrive at paintings such as “Naturalist” and “Last Goodbye,” in which he captures what others, he said, have called a “God light” or “future light,” bursting like a supernova through a thicket of trees. Whether it’s a nocturnal scene (“Promise of Shadows”) or the crack of dawn (“What Passes for Silence”), Bloom combines Henri Rousseau’s quasi-surreal, stylized forests with Charles Burchfield’s intense, emotional landscapes.
Gallery owner Ruth Bachofner deems Bloom’s latest evolution as “something fresh, something new. He’s not just stagnant.”
One of Bloom’s previous series featured variations on art gallery scenes, somewhat figurative yet ephemeral. The artist was less concerned about depicting people as he was in capturing the essence of them, usually by way of anonymous torsos, gesturing hands and backs of heads. Bodies appear to simultaneously come and go, with the only stable elements being solid blocks of generic color.
“I want to create a presence without an identity,” he said, providing more insight into this series. “As an artist, I feel that it’s hard for anyone to look at the art and feel that it’s relevant. They cycle through images so quickly that if you miss a show, nobody’s sad, nobody cries. Art itself has become impermanent.”
With “Seismic Light,” Bloom is on a radically different journey, enjoying “the wild beauty, the color, the shapes, the brushstrokes. I can sort of let go of the constraints of the previous series and be more organic.”
Auras of concentric halos bliss inside-outward, originating from his source photographs.
“There’s definitely an idea of the [camera] lens playing with sunlight,” he said.
Raised in Houston, Bloom grew up admiring Van Gogh, Matisse and Kandinsky as well as American artists Edward Hopper and Frederick Remington, whose iconic depictions of the Old West he especially admired. He moved to California in 1999 to study art at Claremont Graduate University.
Bloom has seen many galleries close since 2008, not just as a result of the economy’s collapse but “the stress on the galleries of what was expected of them, such as [having a presence at] art fairs.”
As a result, surviving galleries are forced to evolve.
“The way people buy now is they usually go to a website then send their decorator to go get it,” he said. “People don’t walk into a gallery, see it, love it, buy it. That’s all gone online, with smaller paintings that are less expensive.”
Economic reality has also prompted Bloom to accept commissions from patrons.
“If someone wants this painting but wants it another color, I’m fine with it,” he said. “I welcome it. I’m very flattered that I’ve even sold any painting. Anytime someone buys one, it’s a big compliment.”
Bachofner is excited about Bloom’s latest output.
“He is changing, and that is what an artist is all about,” she said.
“Seismic Light” runs through Aug. 30 at Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., G2, Santa Monica. Call (310) 829-3300 or visit ruthbachofnergallery.com.