Dueling in Art: A Split Exhibition of Oil Painting

For the last two decades Paul Booth has been one of the biggest names in the tattoo industry and his studio, Last Rites Tattoo Theater and Art Gallery, has become a hub for talent from all over the world.  Now, with a brand new, revamped location in Midtown Manhattan, Last Rites has been redefining the standards for art galleries like never before.  Earlier this month, Welsh oil painter Richard J. Oliver and Peruvian tattooist Stefano Alcantara hosted a double art show in the Last Rites gallery.

Walking through the massive glass doors that help illuminate the gallery, guests were greeted by Alcantara himself, clad in a black suit discussing several paintings within his latest exhibition, Waqayñan, beneath Booth’s very own Adam Wallacavage chandelier.  The gallery was divided into four sections throughout the three levels of the studio.  Upon arrival, gallery goers found themselves in between the two showcases for the night.  Oliver’s Elements exhibition lined the left wall while Alcantara’s lined the right.  The extreme variations of the oil painters’ styles worked well to highlight one another while captivating the viewer as one walked down the show room.

Richard J. Oliver, "Earth" and "Water," oil on canvas

Richard J. Oliver, “Earth” and “Water,” oil on canvas

Richard J. Oliver’s work consisted mainly of surrealist portraiture exaggerating the human body into bizarre circumstances. Paintings held up a very ghoulish vibe such as “I Will Be with You in the Grave” which features a caricature of a small sword-carrying girl walking away from a dying white mare. The centerpieces of the show were four paintings depicting the aging of a young man engulfed by the four key elements of the world: earth, air, fire and water.  The delicate beauty of the “Water” piece eventually served as the marketing image for the exhibition itself.

Contrasted to Oliver’s surrealism was Alcantara’s collection of work combining a photo-realistic refinery with a taste of the brutalities of life. Whether it was pieces like “Enlightened, Vatican” and “Cursed, Vatican” showing a dove either escaping from or being attacked by a crow, respectively, or simply the concept of a small boy in a junk yard titled “Playground, ” Alcanatara’s work was brimming with food for thought.  The most remarkable images, though, came from the shying away from a “completed” painting, as aesthetically, Alcantara chose to have a large portion of his paintings fade off in scattered brush strokes towards the bottom, rather than allow them to end crisply the canvas.

Stefano Alcantara, "Playground," oil on board

Stefano Alcantara, “Playground,” oil on board

When not viewing the two galleries at hand, guests had the opportunity to grab a drink upstairs at the Last Rites bar, a lounge with selected pieces from previous art shows and from Booth’s own paintings permanently installed. Guests could also venture downstairs to the actual tattoo studio.  As with all of the Last Rites Gallery art shows, opening night calls for the process of live painting.  Each opening asks that several artists start painting a collaborative image when the gallery officially opens and must finish by the time the opening night wraps up.  For this gallery, the lower level tattoo studio was transformed into a stage so viewers could watch artists Fred Harper and Joe Weinreb‘s live painting show. 

The exhibition will be on display through August 23rd, closing out the summer for Last Rites’ first season in their new location. With many of the paintings still up for grabs it’s worth a trip by the studio or a look online.

For more images of opening night, check out the gallery below.

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