Sebastian Silva, Installation view, BLUM Los Angeles, 2024, Photo: Ed Mumford

Sebastian Silva

Sebastian Silva

Ivanhoe

May 18 – June 29, 2024
Los Angeles

Biography

Sebastian Silva’s (b. 1979, Santiago de Chile, Chile) mode of painting is quick-witted and rhythmic, referencing the illustrative style and subject matter of children’s cartoons, then filtering this dialect through the lens of abstraction. With striking forms that pop outward against dark outlines, Silva’s intricate symbols propel themselves from the canvas as if yearning to join the space of the viewer. Rendered in rippling tones, the artist’s vibrant greens, scarlets, and aquamarines call out to onlookers—encouraging an observant spectator’s gaze to dance across the composition, all at once ingesting the work’s aura.

Uncoupling character from narrative, Silva employs sketched figures, from sources such as Disney movies, suspended in the act of dissolving or coming apart as they float across each canvas’s burst of tonality. The iconography that has long been socially imbued into these simple lines—a circle becomes Goofy’s nose, a concentric circle his eye—retains its nostalgic power. Despite their decontextualization and deconstruction, these hints of culturally pervasive drawn forms saturate Silva’s work with a playful sentimentality and give the viewer an entry point to reading the greater scope of the artist’s signature, jovial visual language.

The whimsical nature of Silva’s animation-inspired universe shines through when viewing both the holistic work and its discrete details. Each painting hums with kinetic energy—filled to the brim with colorful forms and the dynamic tension of its compositional density. Upon closer inspection, Silva’s components and swatches meticulously contrast or complement the immediate surroundings to achieve the energetic effect of the whole. Often shaded with a dramatic black outline, the elements of the artist’s works allude to the canons of abstraction and illustration. Silva’s practice falls neatly between the two, as if a further unfettered Jean Dubuffet.

A couple, more reticent, characters in Silva’s paintings are his color palette and the distinct conditions of his studio. For each work, the artist has carefully chosen a grouping of hues that best evoke the spirit of the composition—from active and lively to calm and introspective. With some of his forms comprised entirely of block colors, the artist evokes subjective, psychological associations in the viewer as well as referencing moments in art history such as the pinks of Philip Guston. The large scale of Silva’s canvases—uniquely enabled by his expansive, outdoor studio—prompt immersive examination. Careful scans of each work’s surface will reveal mementos from the moment of its creation such as bits of natural material or delicate impressions left by the sunlight.

With each canvas, Silva reiterates and reestablishes the parameters of his painterly vernacular. With sparkling colors and nods to the lighthearted style of childhood comic series, the artist invites onlookers into a dazzling and exuberant world of his own creation. Built from points of reference that are both universal and unique to the artist, Silva’s work makes itself equally accessible and endlessly complex.

Sebastian Silva lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. His work is represented in the collections of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, NY and the Helmut Marko Hotels Collection, Austria, among others. He is a highly celebrated filmmaker, receiving awards such as the Best American Director, Champs-Élysées Film Festival (2023); the Teddy Award, Berlin International Film Festival, Best Feature Film (2014); the Sundance Festival Directing Award, World Cinema, Dramatic (2013); Altazor Awards, Best Director (2010); the Sundance Festival, Sundance Grand Jury Prize (2009); and the Pedro Sienna Awards, Best Film (2008). 

Selected Works

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BLUM Los Angeles will be closed Saturday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day.