Acrylic on canvas is the medium for artist Peter Scherrer’s large, muscular artworks of abstract shapes and landscapes. Some feature bold graphics, others are all slashing, vital strokes of color. It is the kind of painting that is very much of Los Angeles. Blues are as inviting as swimming pools for the eye to dive in. White, grey and chartreuse paint creates jagged images that could be the fronds of palm trees. Bright yellows, greens, and golds are the colors of LA sunsets and Griffith Park, bold strokes of black evoke images of highways driven.
While many of the works exude a freeform style, in fact Scherrer works with a grid, his pieces as carefully laid out as a freeway interchange.
Scherrer’s modern, clean, bright images and his trenchant graphic phrases, are as vibrant as sunshine. Originally from Elgg, Switzerland, Scherrer migrated to the City of Angels in 1991, driven to explore the beach culture and rock n’ roll lifestyle that he perceived as the heart of the city.
With a degree in graphic design and directions to the Rainbow Room, Scherrer was excited by the potential of the LA art scene in the early 90s, and enrolled at Art Center College of Design, completing a BFA in graphic design and packaging, followed by an MFA in media and communications.
Eventually, Scherrer began and ran his own design studio, transitioning from paper and drawing boards to computer-driven designs. But always in the back of his mind as he worked was his love for his first medium, painting. And in the last several years, he’s returned to it, creating a prolific amount of large scale paintings. Today, his computer design is primarily used to set the typography he uses on some of his canvasses.
“In the end, I think my work is very reflective of who I am,” he says. “It’s my way to process my experiences.”
One untitled piece features sweeping, thick olive green lines that reach toward the top of the canvas. The branches of palms, the leaves of birds of paradise, the shadows on downtown skyscrapers, these are the images this piece evokes. The visual pull is toward the sections of blue sky seen through these patterns, drawing the viewer in and up.
Another work, “The Morning After,” features cool, vertical swathes of blue, while less linear black and gold shapes jut out from it, in images that resemble supplicants. The question here is what happened the night before.
An untitled 18 x 18 canvas features white, green, blue, and pink rectangular shapes, bisected by sinuous gold, black and mint green. The colors and the shapes themselves very much evoke Southern California, perhaps as seen from a descending airplane at LAX, or as images on Google Earth.
“It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done” strongly reinforces its graphic component with white paint layered on top of black, red, and yellow. What is this impossible task? A white- washed fence? White-washing feelings or issues? Painting itself? Some of the patterns here are reminiscent of tire tracks. There’s a traveling motion to the piece, a journey to that impossible place, whatever and wherever it may be.
“Out side” are two paired pieces in gold, bronze, and white, the canvas that reads “out” includes rough islands of black. Depicting what could be sand dunes, beaches, an escape into and from the Golden State, these works, like so many others, are almost subliminally evocative of Los Angeles as a whole. Having come from a completely different space – a small Swiss town – at a young age, Scherrer may well be channeling both his first impressions of LA and the qualities of its color, light, and meaning that he has absorbed over the years.
“Salt” is a white mounding over red, black, yellow, and orange. The word expresses the design here, which appears to suggest a certain seasoning added to heighten sunset shades, or a visceral flavor added to what could be a mundane mix of colors and shapes.
There is nothing that is tepid or staid in Scherrer’s works, all are richly visually flavored. They’re bold, they’re bright, they’re images we may not be able to explain and yet ones that we intrinsically recognize, primal. The artist’s big pictures – both literally and figuratively – are as instantly identifiable as the Hollywood sign, and in their own way, already as iconic.
- Genie Davis; Photos provided by artist and ShoeboxPR