VICTOR GRASSO, painter


photo by Frank Weiss
video trailer by Frank Weiss & Bill Horin

 

Victor Grasso describes his work as “a convergence of photo realism and twisted inspiration.” Large canvases of intense realism with montages of unlikely juxtaposition. Men, women, animals, everyday objects, images of the natural world.

His mastery of technique is exquisite and he tends to paint large. Sometimes entire buildings are his canvas when he is doing mural work. Realism at that scale draws you in – occasionally evoking a dreamlike sense of shock by building tension with scenes comfortable in their rendering, yet constructed in a way that cannot possibly exist in the real world.

“It’s an abstract approach to realism,” he says.

As some of his favorite artists, he names Velasquez, Rauschenberg, Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol – Valazquez’ legendary realism, the darkness of the post-impressionists and the use of color and design themes of the pop movement.

Yet – like many artists – he counts pretty much everything among his influences.

“As an artist, there’s not much you see or do that doesn’t influence your work somehow. Everything you see drills into your being, like a carpenter bee. For me it’s pop culture, fashion, movies, other artists – combined with my own sense of hyperrealism. An artist should make whatever he wants. I can’t explain it. I have to paint it. Every painting is a part of you. And when people like it, it’s amazing,” he says.

Recently he’s added Norman Rockwell to his list of inspirational artists. Grasso hadn’t studied Rockwell before. But he was inspired to explore the famed American illustrator’s work after seeing a museum show of Rockwells [http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/archive/2010/rockwell/] owned by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Between seeing that show and becoming a new father, his latest work has gone down a lighter, more sentimental route. Rockwell’s technique and the charm of his storytelling inspired Grasso.

“He was completely confident in the way he was applying paint, like Rembrandt. And his lighting was pure and creamy like Vermeer’s. I thought I have to try doing this,” Grasso says.

He says things just sort of fell into place. He describes his hometown of Cape May as “Rockwellian.” And he has been painting magazine covers for years.

“The real challenge was to make it my own, tell my own story and apply my style using models I think would fit the paintings. I am really enjoying it, telling stories with friends and people I know. It’s like you get to play director, actor and painter,” he says.