This Smart L.A. Art Exhibit Brings Cyberpunk Dystopia Back Into the Metaverse

Posted inFine Art

If you’re a sci-fi fan, you likely already know the origins of “the metaverse” are pretty bleak. In cult classic stories by authors like Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson (who coined the term), a human desire to expand into the digital realm has devastating consequences.

You can tell Jonathan Chapline understands the inherent discomfort of an increasingly digital modern age in Sprawl, his solo exhibition at The Hole L.A. His trippy techno landscapes combine reference points as varied and intriguing as late 20th century architecture, computer graphics, and the foreclosure crisis. Chapline’s crumbling, pixelated scenery adds a sense of unease to our culture’s growing interest in escaping physical reality, and like any good sci-fi, you could see his work as a warning. After all, if we’re not taking care of the real structures we use on a daily basis, who’s to say we’ll take any better care of imaginary structures?

Sprawl will be open at The Hole L.A. until May 28th. Check out a selection of images from the show below.

The Hole L.A. is delighted to present Sprawl, an exhibition of new paintings and drawings by the artist Jonathan Chapline. This show marks the first solo exhibition to be held in The Hole’s sparkling new 8000-sq. ft. Hollywood location. In recognition of the expanded spatial opportunity, Jonathan will be presenting several large wall works which explode his signature style into new dimensions of scale and perspective.

Jonathan Chapline has received serious attention in recent years for his striking polymorphous style and smoothly gradated brushwork. Inspired as much by midcentury modern architecture as he is by early computer software, Jonathan’s synthetic landscapes and interiors are the culmination of a complex process that combines sketchbook drawing with digital rendering, only to inscribe the computer’s 3D models back onto the two-dimensional picture plane. Though his paintings derive from coherent life studies, they are imbued with the perspectival ingenuity of a software program, allowing the artist to tilt, drag, and reconstitute the layout from every conceivable angle. In his meticulously hand-painted works, Chapline winkingly evokes the generic, and playfully builds his visual language around the terminology of modeling – both in relation to mass-produced architecture, and the technical defaults of digital design.

Raised in the suburbs of Waco, Texas, Chapline grew up surrounded by 1970s ranch-style houses, taking comfort in the banality of his community’s vast and hardly distinguishable sprawl. Now based in Brooklyn, Chapline has, in recent years, increasingly turned towards the visual landscape of his childhood for inspiration – a world of cut-copy motifs, subtle asymmetry, and the horizontal development of the American West. Having long been inspired by the clean lines and basic shapes of industrial design, Chapline recognized a conceptual emphasis on the household entering his work around 2008, the same period as the Great Recession’s foreclosure crisis. In our current moment of rising gas prices, divided communities, and high-tilt urbanization, the status of the single-family home and the ideal it embodies remain nearly as precarious for many Americans today. Stretching the familiarity of the suburban setting to its breaking point, Chapline reconstitutes from nearly abstract forms and supple gradients the feeling of warm concrete on a cool summer night, or the sinking discomfort of mistaking another’s warmly-lit window for your own.

Having typically remained within the interior or yard of suburban-style bungalows, for Sprawl, Chapline has adopted an expanded scale and perspective which represents a major departure from his previous work. In new paintings like Night Watch, 2022, he reimagines Western American exurbs on the scale of a neighborhood grid, and from the vantage point of glitching computer software. The exhibition also features a room of drawings, appropriating the stylistic specificity of architectural drafts, which serve as imaging sources for the 3D software Chapline models his paintings on.