Alic Brock’s practice is an irreverent but loving interrogation of painting as it stands at the crossroads of technological innovation. Through his medium-to-large scale, photorealist paintings, the Atlanta-based artist transmutes the sensibilities of today’s digital life—it’s over-stimulation, its obsession with celebrity—while underscoring its inherent superficiality and strangeness. “Your brain does interesting things when it’s confronted by something that might appear to be about new technologies but has the physicality of something that has been around for a long time,” says Brock (b. 1992 Dayton, Ohio) of his paintings. “And I’m really interested in how those two things can live side-by-side, a digital image and a painting.”
Brock’s subject matter has generally featured sports legends (Labron James, Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali) and pop stars (Elvis Presley, Billie Eilish, Andy Warhol), which he sees as references to his childhood, when he idolized such figures and drew them incessantly. But they’re also designed to reference social media, where their images have become so ubiquitous, and so exhausted by incessant screen time, that they’ve become little more than images without any real referent to speak of. Thus, Brock paints them as images rather than people; as digital depictions that convey the artifacts of digital software and the effect of cutting and pasting. What’s more, they barely fit into the confines of the canvas, which forces the viewer to consider the edge of the frame much like a photograph. “Being boxed in is also a reference to my childhood,” adds Brock. “Me and my brother always felt boxed in. We were always dreaming of escaping as soon as we could.”
That same idea courses through the works in Cadillac Jack, albeit with even more emotional punch. Cadillac Jack was the name of well-known sports bar and grill in Dayton that he and his family used to frequent, and the nine paintings in the exhibition are dedicated to his mother, Pamela, who passed away last year at the youthful age of 64. Several were made specifically for her (i.e. the works entitled For Pamela) and feature roses and pearls, which were two of her favorite things. Others were inspired by the conflicting feelings he has toward his early years in Dayton and growing up in a household that often attempted to convey conservatism, but was in truth anything but. The black leather in the painting The Jacket (2022) for instance, not only reflects his memories of both, the bikers and the bars that his parents used to go to, but his mother’s continual search for escapism. Similarly, the sexual couplings depicted in Palm Beach Tan 1 & 2 (2022) reflect both, his discovery of Hustler magazines hidden in his dad’s garage, and the revelation that his parents had another, unspoken side to themselves. “When my mother passed it was really like a goodbye to my hometown,” he says. “I will go back there time to time, but it’s over now. And I feel that these works are kind of trying to deal with that.”
Cadillac Jack is Brock’s second exhibition at the gallery. Previously, he showed at the Cabin in Los Angeles.