In his new body of work, Joey Wolf unifies color, contrast, texture and depth to transform oil paint into glowing neon signs that resonate with chill SoCal
vibes. After meticulously shading and highlighting his background paintings,
Wolf deftly pipes out tubular lines of bright light without actually using any
neon pigment. The resulting trompe l’oeil imagery pulsates with the essential
millennial aesthetic, as much as Drake’s James Turrell-influenced “Hotline
Bling” music video does, and countless LED-drenched TikTok bedrooms.
This distinctly California-influenced aesthetic has made its way around the
world thanks to the Internet, with images of palm trees, avocados and weed
populating retail spaces and Instagram feeds from Stockholm to Seoul. It feels
natural that Wolf, a Southern California native, would embrace these icons.
But while the popularized aesthetic is awash in pale pinks and golds, the reality
of neon signs in the visual vernacular of Los Angeles, and in Wolf’s employ, is
more nuanced: neon lights illuminate diners and bars, bowling alleys and strip
clubs throughout the darker hours of the night. Just as these landmarks of the
city cut straight to the point — GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, Ice Cold Beer — so do
Wolf’s paintings, which forego subtext in favor of electric directness sprawled
across desaturated auras.
As with his figurative paintings, Wolf can’t help but retain a spirit of incandescence, which in the neons is exemplified by his
carefully crafted backgrounds. Wolf develops the foundation for the neon paintings in subtle hues to eectively balance the
pinks and greens that create his fluorescent glow. As ever, Wolf’s sophisticated technical ability is unified seamlessly with
his selected imagery, which feels personal, classical, and profoundly contemporary.
Joey Wolf (b. 1987, Newport Beach, CA) juxtaposes historical European painting techniques and composition with
twenty-first century tableaus in his meticulous renderings of candid social scenes and contemporary iconography.
The imagery in Wolf’s paintings is labored and rich, with large layered and textured surfaces constructed with sculp-
tural physicality. Acting as classically rendered glimpses of contemporary life, Wolf elevates these visual instances to
a grand painterly scale. Expansive, virtuosically produced, and revealingly narrative, Wolf’s paintings fuse flawless skill
with content-rich pop imagery.