|"The Water Crib Fire" oil on linen 20" x 48" 2013 (from the series - "Chicago Disasters")|
|"Green Hornet Streetcar Inferno" oil on canvas 22" x 27" 2013 (from the series - "Chicago Disasters")|
|"1977 CTA El Train Derailment" oil on canvas 24" x 36" 2013 (from the series - "Chicago Disasters")|
"The Manson Family's Spahn Movie Ranch, 1200 Santa Suzana Pass, Chatsworth, California, 1969"
oil on canvas 24" x 48" 2009 (from the series - "Cult Temples")
"Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, Jonestown, Guyana, 1978"
oil on canvas 24" x48" 2009 (from the series - "Cult Temples")
Eric Esper trained as an illustrator, morphed into a landscape painter and finally combined the two to paint eerily objective depictions of the dark side of American History. In his series of "Cult Temples" he painted bird's eye views of the compounds and places of some of the most tragic cults from the Manson Family in California to the Branch Davidians in Waco, Heaven's Gate and more. These paintings are straightforward aerial landscapes. The distance of the scenes keeps the images impersonal. Until you know the title. Then, you look again. We can't help ourselves. The distance and impersonality of images may be almost too distant, too impersonal. Beyond our pre-existing knowledge of the horror associated with what we are looking at, little else is revealed. It may be that the seeming tranquility of scenes creates a kind of dissonance. But in his latest follow up series of paintings, "Disasters of Chicago", the distance and impersonal point of view is countered by the raw drama of disaster unfolding before our eyes; an El train hovering just off the rails about to fall, the fireball of an explosion just erupting after a fuel truck strikes a street car, and in another, not shown here, the curtain's of a crowded theater have just begun to blaze presaging the tragedy that soon followed at the Iriquois Theater in 1903. In all of his work he takes a historian's interest in accuracy, gathering as much photographic reference as possible in order to re-visualize each event from any angle. I look forward to seeing where Mr. Esper's gaze will next illuminate the darker side of history.
You can see more of his work at ericesper.com
Or you can go see the real thing if you happen to be in Chicago by visiting Linda Warren Projects. His work will be on display there until August 10th and for once I will actually be able to see some of the work I post. Hooray!