Josh Stein is a lifelong multi-mode creative artist, musician, writer, professor, and adult beverage maker. With formal training in calligraphy, graphic design, and color work; more than two decades as a researcher, teacher, and writer in cultural analysis in the vein of the Birmingham and Frankfurt Schools; and a decade and a half as a commercial artist and designer for multiple winery clients; he brings his influences of Pop art, Tattoo flash and lining techniques, and Abstract Surrealism and Expressionism to the extreme edge where graphic design and calligraphy meet the Platonic theory of forms. The resulting metallic inks and acrylics on canvas delight and perplex, moving between the worlds of solidity and abstraction.
“My current work is driven by a key question: can Platonic ideals be made manifest in ink and acrylic on canvas? The rest is by turns pretty interesting, trippy, and weird visual speculation. The resulting “color-blocking” is a mischievous way to see the world, allowing a washing away of grim realities into a purer, more inherently positive realm. It’s an arrangement of return to childhood’s wisdom: delight in imagery itself. Equally, the repurposing of mediums intended for mass production–metallic inks and acrylic paints–into singular hand-drawn or -painted pieces gives me and brings to others joy, for metallics zing with a life force I have not found elsewhere in other mediums. As such, these are primal works focusing on vision, order, and patterning, the metallics creating a deliberate shimmering effect, necessitating multiple viewpoints to appreciate fully and requiring an active participation in the art’s presencing, which is why my most abstract of forms come alive on the canvas, imbued with an incomparable, unique energy.
I am attempting to re-orient what “wine country” art can and should be. Rather than tourist-driven imagery, I work to bring more formal approaches to the surroundings and equally allow them to inspire me in ways both direct and indirect. My work, in particular my movement into the use of metallics in various ways, stems directly from the life force around me in the Napa Valley, a place I have grown to know far more intimately than even most locals because of my many years in the wine industry. Equally, I am an artist living and working in the world of the 2020s, so my pieces branch off in different directions, some more explicitly political, some deliberately refusing to engage with those levels of culture altogether so as to focus on other insights into the universe itself. Optical Art is participatory–the viewer must contribute, and does so individually and idiosyncratically–in order for the pieces to function anywhere close to the creators’ intentions. That looseness constrained by interaction is the interesting space I am exploring and hoping to showcase.”