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Britt Ehringer: Deconstructing the Ridiculous and the Raunchy

"Say Hello to My Little Friends," 2014 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

With the senseless onslaught of billboard advertisements and colorful fliers consistently pummeling potential consumers' eyes, the cityscape can feel like an urban sea of vast consumerism. Residing just outside the periphery of lives in perpetual motion, visual artist and co-founder of the renowned art collective Namaak Britt Ehringer constructs the layers of these lives in flux by deconstructing the elements birthed from the fornication of pop culture and consumerism into urban life.

Briefly after having his 50-acre ranch located in the hills of San Bernardino County purchased, Ehringer ultimately settled into a secluded studio space in the heart of Oxnard's rural, pasture rich landscape. Having grown up in Manhattan Beach, Ehringer is certainly no stranger to the lure of an idyllic -- and mythic -- stereotypical southern California life, inclusive of warm sands, bright sun and the appeal of city life where you're never more than 15 minutes away from anything that you could possibly need.

Creating compositions that are saturated with a vibrancy heavy in social commentary brought to life through Ehringer's seamless application of oil to canvas, the local community as well as the cultural landscape surrounding Ehringer inevitably continues to play into the production of his works.

"Babs | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer. | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

"No matter where you are, you're always observing. It's just natural," Ehringer says, "When you're looking around you just see things that give you ideas. But I think Oxnard has a different life here, a different kind of people. It's closer to the beach, so that's been playing into my work. The colors are more aligned with the ocean since it's such a large presence when you're living so close to it."

With a body of work that walks the line between pop art fantasy and society's frequently aloof degeneracy, Ehringer's paintings remain vaguely reminiscent of that of James Rosenquist, combining disjointed fantasies into beautifully reinvigorated compositions, reflecting on our culture's habitually confusing and compacted surroundings, bombarding the viewer with an image overload on par with the sea of advertisements that flood nearly every facet of our lives.

Studio Shot | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer

Through a multi-faceted layering of motifs inclusive of everything from richly colored, well-defined patterns to scantily clad women lounging just beneath a veil of butterflies, Ehringer's coyly melded arrangements embody the often disorienting and pervasive presence of the consumer world. Producing works that facilitate intricate dialogues between both the art and the viewer, Ehringer jumbles thoughts between a slew of strangely contrasted figures whose nostalgic raunchiness remains endearing through the occasionally nonsensical add in, such as a cabbage leaf placed upon a figure's head or a starkly painted target acting as the focal point in a slew of contorted, nude bodies.

"I love the dialogue because whatever they say is something that I would probably never be able to come up with, so it's usually pretty great," Ehringer says, "I think it's people's minds that complete them, which has always been fascinating to me. These are non-narrative paintings and everyone wants to make stories. So they complete a story in their mind to fulfill whatever they're thinking."

"Holiday Gathering," 2005 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer

Through the combination of overlapping, often fragmented icons, Ehringer's cleverly deployed use of imagery provokes a narrative that utilizes familiar objects in a raw, provocative manner. With depictions of conventional pop culture subject matter, namely the fetishization of consumerism and hyper-sexuality, Ehringer reinvents and rebirths his subjects by skewing and disrupting each figure through the use of patterned borders and intruding, strategically placed characters. In "Holiday Gathering," 2005, Ehringer's photorealistic style collides with a dripping Pepto-Bismol pink pattern that can be seen oozing onto the legs of two black and white, bikini clad bodies entangled mid-wrestle. The accompanying subjects, inclusive of a Santa costume clad Golden Retriever and a sharply dressed gentleman unfazed by the cabbage leaf placed atop his head, most appropriately depicts the immensity of a society immersed in the garbled mass of propagated media.

And then there's the cats.

"Fritz and Sholders," 2014 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

"The Big Bang," 2005 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

Ehringer's most recently completed paintings play on the magnitude of the current cat popularity phenomenon. Two of these works, both of which were on display at the now concluded Cat Art Show Los Angeles, "Fritz and Sholders," 2014 and "Say Hello to My Little Friends," 2014, both make use of a bevy of softly detailed kitten heads, with the latter creating a literal mountain of kittens from which Al Pachino can be seen firing his machine gun in a farcical nod to "Scarface."

With a body of work that spans from the ridiculous to the seemingly obscene, Ehringer's colorful dissection of a society enamored with the idea of more stands as a refreshing take on the chaos of urban life, consistently colliding between real life and fantasy on a tightrope just outside the bustle of everyday life.

"Maid in America," 2005 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

Ehringer's upcoming show "Tacos@Midnight" will open at Gallerie 102 in Ojai on June 14th, 2014.

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Top Image: "Say Hello to My Little Friends," 2014 | Photo Courtesy of Britt Ehringer.

About the Author

April is currently an honor student based in San Bernardino County in pursuit of her B.A. in Art History at California State University San Bernardino.
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