Marc Straus is pleased to present Beasts, an exhibition of recent paintings by John Newsom.

In this latest series, the artist merges the repetition, patterning, and iconography of Pop Art with the surfaces, allover painting, and heroism of Abstract Expressionism.

In the 1973 film Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee steps into a room of mirrors for arguably its most iconic fight scene. It is then that the teacher’s spiritual guidance reemerges: “The enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy.” For Newsom, the enemy is a programmatic adherence to either representation or abstraction, which is a painterly line that he carefully balances. With lifelike rendering and expressionistic impasto, the artist employs the leopard as an ancient motif whose rosettes visually dissolve into allover patterning.

Like many young boys growing up in the '70s and '80s, especially in a semi-rural part of Oklahoma, the images of Bruce Lee with bleeding claw marks on his face and chest, or the iconic star atop a tiger skin rug, must be seared into the artist’s mind. But as survivors of 2020–2021, how can we ponder images of big cats, perched on vibrant red grounds and flanked with vivid, green Monstera leaves, without also considering the spectacle of Joe Exotic? As open-ended metaphors for humanity’s contemporary predicament, the viewer is left to discover whether these Beasts are mystical, territorial, political, or even existential.

John Newsom (b. 1970; Hutchinson, KS) lives and works in New York. He earned an MFA from New York University and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Solo exhibitions include the Oklahoma Contemporary Museum & Arts Center, Oklahoma City; The Richard J. Massey Foundation for the Arts and Sciences, New York; and Patrick Painter, Los Angeles. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno; and Vito Schnabel Projects, New York; among others. The artist’s paintings are featured in the public collections of The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, and The Wright Museum of Art, Beloit, WI.

Beasts is Newsom’s third solo exhibition with the gallery — it coincides with the opening of John Newsom: Painting the Forest of the Happy Ever After at The Brattleboro Museum in Vermont, which showcases a series inspired by the artist’s recent cover art for Killah Priest of The Wu-Tang Clan. The artist’s solo exhibition entitled New Growth in an Old Garden opens in May at the Kunstverein Heppenhem, Bergstraße, Germany. A two-person exhibition (with Raymond Pettibon) entitled The Seven Deadly Sins and The Seven Heavenly Virtues is scheduled for next year at the Kebbel-Villa Museum in Schwandorf, Germany.