Artist Stenzel Brings “June Gloom” in July

Alex Stenzel is exhibiting his paintings and photographs in West Hollywood through October 1.
Alex Stenzel is exhibiting his paintings and photographs in West Hollywood through October 1.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

High above Sunset Boulevard, just off Chautauqua, artist Alex Stenzel plugs away, creating mammoth mixed-media canvases and black-and-white prints, all of it very much inspired by his Pacific Palisades environs. After a hiatus, Stenzel has returned with a new exhibit of his work, titled ‘June Gloom,’ which runs through October 1 at the Don O’Melveny & Seyhoun Galleries in West Hollywood. Long before moving to the Palisades, Stenzel, 44, grew up just outside D’sseldorf, in Oer-Erkenschwick Ruhrgebiet, an industrial town (population 10,000) with coal mines and steel mills. ‘It’s the same town where Leonardo De Caprio’s [maternal] grandparents are from,’ Stenzel tells the Palisadian-Post. ‘His grandma is buried next to mine.’ From age 14 to 17, Stenzel was a promising tennis player, ranking among the world’s top 30 juniors. But fine arts became his true calling, and so, in the mid-1980s, he became a clothing designer, producing shirts for Diesel, Chevingnon and Paul Smith. ‘I sold them out of my Volkswagen bus, traveling throughout Europe,’ he says. ‘I was listed by Vogue among the top ten fashion designers in Europe when I was 21.’ In 1990, Stenzel moved to Los Angeles and settled in the Palisades 12 years ago. He lives here with his girlfriend, artist Rachael Bloomfield, and their Chihuahua, Gjoda (as in Yoda from the ‘Star Wars’ movies). ‘California just felt right,’ says the frequent hiker and camper. ‘L.A. is a playground to be creative. I go to the mountains and I love surfing. I was looking for open space. We’re sitting with our back to 50 miles of state park.’ Stenzel finds America, particularly the Golden State, the opposite of where he grew up: ‘Germany is all about conformity, repression of individual expression”nothing in between.’ Nevertheless, his native land plays a part in his art: ‘My work reflects my old town: industrial with the bright colors of California. I’m inspired by nature. I love having the mountains in our backyard.’ The artist draws inspiration from Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Stenzel enjoys creating his collage canvases to the trippy sonic landscapes of Massive Attack. Describing the effect he wants to convey with his looming canvases: ‘Very powerful yet very peaceful.’ From the late-1990s to mid-2000s, Stenzel painted what he calls his ‘fairy’ paintings, crossed out in black paint, creating a stained-glass style mosaic effect over photographs of women. ‘Between 1997 and 2002, I focused exclusively on painting and produced about 300-400 pieces of art,’ Stenzel says. ‘My last local show was reviewed by Peter Frank in LA Weekly as ‘Pick of the Week’ and my work was featured on the cover of the L.A. Biennial catalog. ‘I always enjoyed the photographs, but somehow I would put pigment in there,’ continues Stenzel, who felt something was missing. Titles such as ‘7 Tons’ and ’10 Tons’ capture the mass and density of layers presented on his canvases. One of his most impressive abstracts, ‘2.8 Tons,’ a spectacular explosion of sky blue, yellow and white, is featured in ‘June Gloom.’ Painting and photography aside, Stenzel has expressed his creativity by, well, creating. He holds 20 patents, novelty inventions such as funky CD holders and piggy banks. In 2004, he came up with the ‘Gorilla Sandwich’ (a hollowed-out cucumber filled with such ingredients as walnuts, avocado, olives, seaweed and flax seed oil) which was distributed through Whole Foods. Stenzel had a solo show in Palm Beach in February 2007, but recently took a sabbatical to do some writing: ‘I spent four years writing about art theory, philosophy on existence, and analyzing my own artwork.’ In addition to his large abstracts, ‘June Gloom’ includes 20 atmospheric black-and-white photos; of early-morning landscapes shot around the village, Santa Monica Beach and Temescal Gateway Park. Stenzel says he is fascinated by the fog that rolls in”’sleeping dragons’ along the beachfront. ‘It’s an island of peace,’ he says of his adopted home. ‘The geomantics, the zen energy of Pacific Palisades. It flows through here.’ ‘June Gloom’ also features collages by Bloomfield, Bruce Helander, and Jazan Kozma. The gallery is located at 9007-9009 Melrose Ave. (at Doheny Dr.). Contact: 310-786-9945; www.donomelvenygallery.com.