David Molesky’s RIOT PAINTINGS a disinfo interview.

Molotov Toss David Molesky

David Molesky is a Brooklyn-based painter and writer. He grew up in Washington DC, and moved west in 1995 to obtain his Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley (1999).

In 2009, he returned to the US after an 18 month apprenticeship with the painter Odd Nerdrum in Iceland, Norway, and Paris. Molesky’s work has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions including: the Baltimore Museum of Art; Pasinger Fabrik, Munich, Germany; and the Grand Central Art Center of Cal State Fullerton. The Long Beach Museum of Art has recently added a painting from his series of hill fires to its permanent collection. Many publications including Hi Fructose, New American Paintings, The Surfers Journal, and Juxtapoz Magazine have featured Molesky and his work.


From the artist:

“I like to imagine paint as primordial ooze that mimics the mysterious ever-changing preternatural substances. Like a force of nature, I conduct formlessness in my own microcosm of creation. And as I compose my images, I recognize the existential responsibility of these choices. In order to transform my canvas, I am often led on a path of momentary destruction, as are the subjects in the Riots. These paintings explore concepts of transformation and its relation to symbolic and actual acts of destruction. The action within these images stems from visceral desire to advance an overall situation and is propelled by the motivation and self-will of an individual. Agency as an internal force should be a given to all individuals. This is also represented by fire itself, which I paint such that it appears to be lit from within, without reliance on external light sources. The characters of the paintings, both the humans and fire, become cohorts in an evolutionary process of destruction; limbs and fire flicker into a landscape of chaos and churning elements. As instigators and perpetuators, my rioters enter a collaborative and harmonious dance with the elements. In opposition to depictions of man and fire as incongruous, I choose to have my two subjects feeding one another, working towards the same mission. There is only intimacy between them, no fear.”

Disinfo: What was the catalyst, either a historical event or social uprising somewhere that inspired you to begin these riot paintings?
David Molesky:  I wanted to combine fire with figurative narrative action in my paintings and when I caught wind of the protests happening in Kiev, Ukraine, I knew that would be my guiding inspiration. Although, I followed the politics that triggered that particular event, I was ultimately more interested in painting a more universal view of human gesture in collaboration with fire as a force of change.
Disinfo:  were these paintings based on documentation of those particular riots?
David Molesky: Yes, during the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. I collected thousands of images depicting this particular event as well as other protests happening around the globe. The huge amount of fire and smoke that billowed from the wall of burning tires and its placement within the city square amongst the government buildings made the landscape of Kiev particularly attractive for me to paint. Other than forest fires or perhaps devastation in the aftermath of the earthquake, I have never heard of or seen a place transformed in such a scale as a display of civilian revolt.

David Molesky “Three Marauders”

Disinfo: Yet these paintings display a lack of specificity, either temporal or geo-political. Is that in order to allow a wide range of viewers the opportunity to interact with the works through their own subjective experience?
David Molesky:   Yeah, because the paintings are not intended to be about politics, which I am generally not interested in. I am more much more interested in ideas that have enduring relatability. Things that can speak to human experience across centuries and millennium, subjects and situation that perhaps contain flashes of archetypes. I feel like this quality is present in most great works of art from the past that continue to be appreciated today.

David Molesky “Fire Feeders”

Disinfo: Could you speak a bit about your time with odd nurdrum, how you met and how that experience helped shape what trajectory your work has taken since?
David Molesky: For a long time, I have been fascinated by Odd’s extraordinary ability to depict figures with great volume in deep space. I wrote him a letter with images of my work in 2006 and was quickly invited to visit him. During my apprenticeship, I not only gained greater perspectives on art history and philosophy, but also felt comforted in my observation of Odd’s incredible work ethic and perseverance. While nearly every other painter I know would have declared to be finished if they had achieved the same results as Odd in his first pass, Odd in his wonderful stubbornness always expects that he can and shall make the painting better through exhaustive sessions on the same painting. Seeing that, practicing it, and knowing the same to be true for my own work has really helped me stay on the course and to get the most out of each painting I begin.
Disinfo: Does the fire in the “Riot Painting” represent to you transformation in the alchemical sense of making something out of nothing? Does this have an affininty to the artistic process in general, whereby an artist take raw materials and transforms them through his own passion into something that has intrinsic value, and if so how would you define that value?

David Molesky “Fire Bird”

David Molesky:  My understanding of alchemy is that one undesirable material is nearly destroyed as part of the process of transforming it into another more desirable material such as gold. The alchemical aspect of painting for me has more to do with what are called indirect painting techniques, that is the multi-layered approach to painting. In order to further advance the image of a painting in this way, you must be comfortable to destroy and cover up what you had previously painted. You can’t hold anything as too precious, you have to make sacrifices in order to make progress.

David Molesky “Out of Service”

There is also the aspect of alchemy and the artistic process that you mention. Where the artist, especially those who work in raw materials that have little intrinsic value on there own, through hard work, time, and great imagination transform something inert into something that appears to breath life and can express something that is nearly impossible to communicate in any other way. Its a kind of magic.


David Molesky “Message In a Bottle”

David Molesky “Maidan”

David Molesky “Yellow Bus”‘


David Molesky   “Riot Paintings” April 1 – May 1 2016

Stephen Romano Gallery

117 Grattan Street (corner of Porter Ave and Harrison Place)

Brooklyn NY 11237  646 709 4725