Cowboys and evil things
Eric Endy and Jessie De Leon
Jesse De Leon recreates images from Western movies, using markers and pen and ink. Eric Endy makes acrylic paintings that depict schlocky monsters. Nightmares of the West, the duo’s collaborative exhibition is on display at the Holland Project Gallery, 140 Vesta St., through Jan. 13.
Both 20-something artists have youthful, gleefully lowbrow styles—influenced by Japanese animation, superhero comic books and, of course, pulpy genre films.
“Everybody’s into ninjas and pirates, but you don’t hear enough about gunslingers,” says De Leon. He says he grew up loving Westerns, particularly the stylish, visually thrilling films of Sergio Leone, like A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Many of his pieces depict images taken directly from these movies, re-drawn with the bold lines, bright colors and iconic compositions of comic books.
“I really like definite lines,” he says.
Other pieces depict scenes from more recent Western films, like Appaloosa, a 2008 gunslingin’ flick starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. And some pieces, like the pen and ink triptych “Showdown,” which almost looks like a series of storyboards, are wholly original creations—though certainly inspired by the tight close-ups and flashy violence of Leone’s films.
Endy’s works depict strange, toothy, bulbous monsters, usually against a block of simple color.
“I like to use a lot of negative space,” says Endy. “People sometimes ask me why I don’t paint more detailed backgrounds, but I prefer to focus on the characters.”
The titles of Endy’s artworks are a variety of different phobias, like “Arachnophobia,” “Hominophobia” and “Demonophobia”—an especially graphic piece that depicts a man vomiting up a demon.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been intrigued by horror movies, the creepy and the macabre,” says Endy. “For example, my favorite scene in Fantasia is the part in the cemetery with the devil. Maybe I was a creepy little kid.”
Nightmares of the West also features a collaborative triptych, “The Monster,” “The Stranger” and “The Final Battle,” with accompanying text about a monster attacking a mining town in August 1836. The two artists worked on these three pieces together and co-wrote the story, which draws heavily on the common tropes from both Westerns and monster movies.
“I was loading my wagon with my eldest son when I noticed smoke billowing out of the town,” begins the text that accompanies “The Final Battle.” “As survivors passed by, I spotted Mr. O’Connolly and managed to wave him down, to ask what had happened.
“Drenched in sweat, he explained in a shaken voice that some sort of giant with the face of a dead man and some sort of tentacles coming out every side of its body was destroying the town and killing every living thing in sight. He swore it was something straight out of the Book of Revelations. He thought it was all over until some stranger showed up. He said the stranger didn’t hesitate. He just drew his guns and began to fire at the beast. If it wasn’t for that man, no one would’ve had the chance to make it out of the town alive.”
The artist’s styles complement each other readily, since they’re inspired by familiar movie archetypes. And what do monster movies and Westerns have in common?
“A lot of B movies,” says De Leon.