Damian Loeb at Mary Boone

In a portentous fragment of dialogue from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, reporter Martin Amer greets Hal, the supercomputer. Damian Loeb appropriates Kubrick's context and Hal's reply to serve as the title for the glacial, 9-by-10-foot hyperrealism of Good Afternoon Mr. Amer (2003), a painting composed of film-derived images, appropriated, digitally manipulated and then rendered in oil on the traditional support of prepared linen. If the putative subject of this painting is the sci-fi workstation interior of a wheel-shaped starship, Loeb proposes its metatext as a depiction of the world as cinema.

Here is Kubrick's chilly corridor ornamented with high-tech screens, empty chairs and zero crew, the frame's spectrum dominated by a metallic, monitor blue. Loeb regards such "found" cinematic artifacts as Jungian moments for the popcorn crowd. What is shown in each work is more or less recognizable, given an image-literate culture and a shared understanding of the tropes common to the vocabulary of science fiction and horror as practiced by Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott.

Two additional paintings find their source in 2001: a suite of eight 20-by-20-inch canvases, D-GAMA (Screens)-1-8 (2003), representing active monitors from the starship's banks of screens and designated "D" by Loeb to indicate "detail," and Moon. American. Floyd, Heywood R.(SFC), 2002, designated "SFC" to indicate that Loeb's composition is based on a single frame. In the latter work, a flash of bare legs is glimpsed through an entryway, the framing suggesting the presence of the unknown-a predator, voyeur or both.

Malevolent forces observe the unsuspecting swimmers in Loeb's watery USS Indianapolis (2002-03). His title refers to a World War II vessel sunk by a submarine, and by extension to the captain of the boat in Jaws, scripted by Spielberg as a survivor of the shark-infested waters of that sinking. A large painting for Loeb at 9 feet square, it served to mirror the scale of Good Afternoon Mr. Amer across the gallery. Elsewhere, from an ominously low angle, Loeb recalls the images that open the horrorlite of Poltergeist, focusing on the lone wheel and chain of a bicycle occupying The Calling/The Neighborhood (Main Title) (SFC), 2002, a horizontal, 3-by-7-foot format that has become his signature. His stony sense of the eternity of such moments approaches the spectacular visual language of Jack Goldstein, by way of the silent, cinematic equivalencies of Gregory Crewdson. The sources of these appropriated images, their composition and the construction of their titles are of interest as factors in Loeb's process, and further suggest why these paintings attract a contemporary audience saturated with familiar but not quite recognizable imagery and half-forgotten names.



–Leffingwell, Edward
December 23, 2003