Jeff Soto Is Repopulating the World's Mysterious Corners
The problem with the world today, as painter Jeff Soto sees it, is that we’ve become so accustomed to documentation that we’ve expunged mystery. The corners of our world are so photographed and catalogued as we chase the shadows with flashlights that it is impossible for anything to hide. We lift every stone and plunge every cave, threatening the habitats of our imagination with extinction. And it’s a real shame. “I grew up with the idea that Big Foot is probably real, we just haven’t found him,” explains Jeff. “And the Loch Ness Monster is out there. There are all these mysteries. It’s a better world when there’s some mystery out there.” Jeff cannot stand by and let these things happen. So he’s populating this world with as much mystery as he can.
In Nightgardens, Jeff’s first ever solo show in his hometown of Los Angeles, he began by exploring traditional painting genres and techniques. Almost every painting started as a landscape, but quickly each found a life of its own. “It’s funny, when I look at the paintings I’ve done for this show it doesn’t really look like landscape painting,” he says. “They all started with a landscape or a loose idea of a landscape. There’s kind of an exploration of the dark and mysterious. There’s a lot that I’ve been thinking about.” As Jeff plumbs these questions, characters and beings show up in his scenes. Their appearance is like a reaction to the extinction of mystery in our world. Almost as if they arrive to be counted at a call for attendance. They show up to prove they’re still there and we should still wonder. We can relax that there is still more to find, still more to understand.
Jeff set up Nightgardens as a personal challenge to himself. He’s using it as an opportunity to explore creatively, and scratch his artistic and intellectual itches. “Every painting is a challenge and there’s an uncertainty,” says Jeff, wading into the lands he’s exploring in Nightgardens. “It makes me sad that maybe we’ve found everything or we know everything. There’s no way we know everything, but I just like to think we don’t know anything. There’s a lot more to explore, I would hope.”
Nightgardens opens on June 27 at KP Projects / MKG, and will be on view through July 25.