ArtNet News: Heartland Rocker John Mellencamp Shows a New Series Paintings in New York

By Caroline Goldstein - ArtNet News

The opening for singer John Mellencamp’s new art show at ACA Galleries in Manhattan was, unsurprisingly, a who’s who of Hollywood and rock stardom. Lorraine Bracco, the actress who played Tony Soprano’s therapist, was there alongside veteran rock reporter Alan Light, Bungalow8 founder Amy Sacco, and Universal Music president Bruce Resnikoff.

Mellencamp’s show, “Life, Death, Love, and Freedom” is his second at the gallery, and like his musical career, his artwork is only getting better. The portraits, rendered in dark oranges and shadowy blacks, are reminiscent of the German artist Markus Schinwald’s work. Mellencamp himself cites influences as far ranging as Robert Rauschenberg and the German expressionists Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.

The titles of the work variously make reference to James Dean, the Marlboro Man, and a character from the movie Babydoll. But Mellencamp would prefer the work be read on its own terms. “These galleries want names on the paintings,” he told artnet News in an email. “I would prefer not to name any artwork. I find titles anywhere I can get them, more or less just for identification purposes.”

Lest viewers think that Mellencamp’s art is merely a vanity offshoot of his musical celebrity, in fact, the Jack and Diane crooner spent time at the Art Students League in New York in the 1970s, and always hoped to pursue a painting career.

Today, when he isn’t on a 50-concert tour, Mellencamp frequents galleries and museums, plus the occasional art fair. But he’s happiest making his own art, no matter what form it takes.

Arte Fuse: John Mellencamp: “Life, Death, Love, Freedom” at ACA Galleries

“An artist creates, and what comes out, comes out. I have no control over what other people might think. Creation, whether it’s songs or paintings try to tell a story and try to engage the viewer or the listener,” explains John Mellencamp when asked about the relationship between the paintings in his latest exhibition at ACA Galleries in New York City, entitled “Life, Death, Love, Freedom”

Billboard - John Mellencamp's Art Exhibit 'Life, Death, Love and Freedom' Opens in New York

John Mellencamp photographed on the opening night of his new exhibition Life, Death, Love, Freedom, at ACA Galleries on April 26, 2018 in New York.

On Wednesday (April 25), John Mellencamp welcomed guests to his second art gallery opening in New York in three years to display a striking new mixed-media style to his paintings -- the counterpoint to his career as one of the most successful rock songwriters of his era.

Wall Street International Magazine -John Mellencamp 26 Apr — 2 Jun 2018 at the ACA Galleries in New York, United States

ACA Galleries is pleased to announce contemporary artist John Mellencamp’s new exhibition, Life, Death, Love, Freedom, opening on April 26, 2018 in New York. This is Mellencamp’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and will showcase two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages and series of portraits.

Heavily influenced by the German Expressionists, such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, whose anguish over human brutality and corruption speaks to his deep feelings about social justice, Mellencamp’s imagery takes its inspiration from the same sources as his music: the oppressive authority and social struggles of the working man and woman. But though that foundation is German, the evolved result is decidedly American, with the brash and snappy visual rhythms of our streets, lives, politics and passions.

Juxtapoz Art Beat - JOHN MELLENCAMP'S NEW SHOW OF PAINTINGS: "LIFE, DEATH, LOVE, FREEDOM"

The acclaimed musician, agriculture activist, actor, and painter, John Mellencamp, is opening a new exhibition titled Life, Death, Love, Freedom. This will be Mellencamp’s second solo exhibition with ACA Galleries in New York City, and will showcase two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages, and a series of portraits. Heavily influenced by the German Expressionists, such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, whose anguish over human brutality and corruption speaks to his deep feelings about social justice, Mellencamp’s imagery takes its inspiration from the same sources as his music: the oppressive authority and social struggles of the working man and woman. To get an idea of Mellencamp's art, we wanted to ask him about this new show and the visual portion of his artistic career.

View gallery HERE

How long have you been making visual art? Was this something that you did during your initial music career? I’ve been making visual art for as long as I can remember. I originally went to New York to go the Art Students League and in the meantime, I got a record deal.

What visual artists inspire you? Are you inspired by other musicians that make visual art? An amateur artist borrows. A professional artist steals, and is inspired by what they have taken.

A lot of your portraits are really dark (color wise,) What draws you to this thematically dark style? My palette is the same palette it has been for 40 years, and it is the same palette as Rembrandt’s. I very rarely use non-earth tone colors, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t if I felt the surprise of the addition.

Also, a lot of your work feels referential to America and the American political landscape, is this one of the primary intentions behind your art? Or is it more just what you're thinking of? A true art is when the artist is surprised. I’m not looking to make any statements or hang on any crosses. I’m looking to surprise myself. The painting must be beautiful, even if it’s grotesque.

Art News: - ‘Painting Is a Way for Me to Be by Myself’: John Mellencamp on Life, Rock, and His New Show at ACA Galleries

The musician and artist John Mellencamp stumbled into his first record deal while traveling to New York City from his home state of Indiana in search of an art school to attend. It was the mid-1970s, and the future star, who at various points in his long career has also been known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Cougar Mellencamp, had just graduated from Vincennes University, a small two-year college in Indiana. “I figured while I was in New York, I might as well see if I can get anything going on [the music] end,” Mellencamp, who spent his teenage years playing in bar bands, recently told me over the phone. “And, as it turns out, at 20 years old, 21 years old, New York Art Students League wanted me to pay them money, and the record companies wanted to give me money.” Read John Chiaverina's complete article after the jump. 

Wall Street Journal - John Mellencamp Began His Art Career in His Family's Indiana Basement

I grew up in Seymour, Ind. The first place we lived was on Fifth Street. It was nothing special—just a small one-story home they built for vets returning from World War II. My two brothers and I lived in the basement. My father, Richard, fixed up a section for us with wood paneling and ugly linoleum on the concrete floor.

We had triple bunk beds. I was the middle kid, so I got the middle bunk. There was a TV, and the windows were at ceiling level.

My mother, Marilyn, was a homemaker. Later, she delivered mail to keep busy. She was very pretty, and had been a runner-up in the Miss Indiana pageant in '46. She loved to paint and did so each day, in between dealing with us. My dad created a studio space for her in the basement, too. When I was little, I'd paint on top of her work. That pissed her off.

Bob Morris - Author, Curator And Contributor To The New York Times - Mellencamp Interview

Bob Morris visited John at his art studio in Indiana to speak with him about his life as a painter, his development of his paintings and assemblages, and to view his latest works that will be on exhibit at the ACA Galleries in New York City April 26th - June 2nd. Read this fascinating interview after the jump.

"Like the characters in the Steinbeck and Faulkner novels he admired in his youth and the dustbowl inflected songs of Woody Guthrie, he paints about alienation and struggle more than joy or ease..."

WideWalls: Life, Death, Love Freedom - John Mellencamp Paintings in New York

Treading new ground, John Mellencamp paintings evoke hints of Neo- and German Expressionism, combining portraits of everyday Americans with a cast of universally recognized symbols such as hearts, guitars, targets, and crowns. The critic Doug McClemont noted: "Mellencamp paints handsomely grotesque portraits in oil that are as solemn and stirring as his hit songs are catchy and inspirational — depicting existential scenes and human beings ridden with the angst of the everyday.

His latest body of work will soon be on view at ACA Galleries in New York, an institution that has been supporting artists in diverse disciplines with singular points of view for over 80 years. Titled John Mellencamp: Life, Death, Love, Freedom, the exhibition will bring together two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages and series of portraits. This will be his second solo exhibition with the gallery. Click HERE to read the article online and view some of the paintings that are part of the exhibit.

John Mellencamp: Life, Death, Love And Freedom Exhibit On View April 26th - June 2nd

We are pleased to announce contemporary artist John Mellencamp’s new exhibition, Life, Death, Love, Freedom, opening at ACA Galleries on April 26, 2018 in New York. This is Mellencamp’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and will showcase two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages and series of portraits. Read the complete press release after the jump.

“Mellencamp paints handsomely grotesque portraits in oil that are as solemn and stirring as his hit songs are catchy and inspirational -- depicting existential scenes and human beings ridden with the angst of the everyday” notes critic Doug McClemont..."

NY Observer: Nobody Knows John Mellencamp

“Nobody knows me,” John Mellencamp said recently in his raspy Hoosier drawl. He was slumped in a black leather chair and smoking a cigarette at ACA Galleries in Chelsea, where his first art show in the city opens this week. “I know me,” he clarified. “I’m old enough to know that I don’t need instruction or any of that kind of stuff. I know what I want to do and I do it.”