Beautiful chaos in Dan Witz’ Mosh Pit paintings
Dan Witz - Scrum 2 (All Out War), 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 43 in with frame

Dan Witz – Scrum 2 (All Out War), 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 43 in with frame

Published: January 13, 2020

Introduction

Anyone who sees a Dan Witz painting is aptly astounded by the level of detail. Only a few trained eyes can tell that these hyperreal paintings are just are done by hand rather than photography. The street artist’s deft hand is perfectly seen at work in his Mosh Pit series, which depicts unruly concert-goers in different stages of rowdiness. The depth and color that Witz has applied to these paintings are astounding, as good as the old masters.

Mosh Pit paintings

In his wordings, Witz says that he sought out painting when he was looking for a translation from his rock musician days in his 20’s. He discovered that painting had the potential to offer him the same adrenalin that he found in music performance. Naturally, the punk rock scene was one of his inspirations. He would fit a camera on a pole and lift it over the crowd to capture moments of frenzy and chaos. The few lucky shots that perfectly captured the animated crowd would then form a base to build up hyperreal canvas pieces.

Dan Witz - Agnostic Front Circle Pit, 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 82

Dan Witz – Agnostic Front Circle Pit, 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 82

Dan Witz - Agnostic Front Crowd Study, 2014, oil on canvas, 15 x 20 in

Dan Witz – Agnostic Front Crowd Study, 2014, oil on canvas, 15 x 20 in

Dan Witz - Byronesque 3, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 71 in with frame

Dan Witz – Byronesque 3, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 71 in with frame

Dan Witz - Free For All, 2014, 42 x 54 in

Dan Witz – Free For All, 2014, 42 x 54 in

How the paintings were created

The work is a masterful combination of old techniques and digital technology. The artist starts with digital photos. These are then edited in Photoshop and painted on canvas as achromatic prints. The artist then falls back to the old glazing techniques to apply color, form, depth, shadow, and light. The final result is nothing short of a Bosch or Rubens.

Dan Witz - ABC No Rio, 2011, oil and digital media on canvas, 56 x 96 in

Dan Witz – ABC No Rio, 2011, oil and digital media on canvas, 56 x 96 in

Dan Witz - Agnostic Front, 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 76 in

Dan Witz – Agnostic Front, 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 76 in

Dan Witz - Sick Of It All, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 77 in with frame

Dan Witz – Sick Of It All, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 77 in with frame

Dan Witz - Vision of Disorder, 2013, oil and digital media on canvas, 40 x 64 in

Dan Witz – Vision of Disorder, 2013, oil and digital media on canvas, 40 x 64 in

Dan Witz - Vision of Disorder Frieze, 2013, oil and digital media on canvas, 26 x 144 in

Dan Witz – Vision of Disorder Frieze, 2013, oil and digital media on canvas, 26 x 144 in

Analysis

The Mosh Pit series is perhaps the epitome of these punk rock-inspired paintings. Witz depicts the passion of the frantic crowds perfectly down to the graffiti on the baseball cap on the guy at the back of the hall, as well as details of the tattoos on necks and arms. The series is a depiction of a rock crowd’s beautiful chaos brought out with a paintbrush rather than photography. French fashion house Dior featured this acclaimed series to a roaring success. The first in the series was the Big Mosh Pit that came out in 2007. In 2018, the exhibition Mosh Pit Paintings 2010-2018 was shown in London’s StoleSpace gallery.

Dan Witz - Big Mosh Pit, 2007, oil and mixed media on canvas, 46 x 70 in

Dan Witz – Big Mosh Pit, 2007, oil and mixed media on canvas, 46 x 70 in

Dan Witz - Scrum 1 (King of Hearts), 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 43 in with frame

Dan Witz – Scrum 1 (King of Hearts), 2015, oil on canvas, 49 x 43 in with frame

Dan Witz - Scrum 4 (Microphone), 2016, 32 x 22 in

Dan Witz – Scrum 4 (Microphone), 2016, 32 x 22 in

Dan Witz - Scrum Study (The Flash), 2015, oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in with frame

Dan Witz – Scrum Study (The Flash), 2015, oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in with frame

About Dan Witz

Dan Witz was born in 1957 in Brooklyn, New York. He had a brief career as a punk rock musician in his 20’s before going into street art and realist painting. Today, he is a celebrated artist in both genres. His work has been exhibited in top galleries around the world, including Addict Gallery in Paris, Carmichael Gallery in Los Angeles, and DFN Gallery in New York. He has also received fellowships from the New York Foundation of the Arts.

Dan Witz - Mosh Pit, 2000, oil on canvas, 48 x 46 in

Dan Witz – Mosh Pit, 2000, oil on canvas, 48 x 46 in

Dan Witz - Mosh Pit Study Anarchy, 2014, oil on canvas, 15 x 20 in (38.1 x 50.8 cm)

Dan Witz – Mosh Pit Study Anarchy, 2014, oil on canvas, 15 x 20 in (38.1 x 50.8 cm)

Dan Witz - Mosh Pit Study Jets, 2014, oil on canvas, 14 x 20 in (35.56 x 50.8 cm)

Dan Witz – Mosh Pit Study Jets, 2014, oil on canvas, 14 x 20 in (35.56 x 50.8 cm)

All images: Dan Witz unless otherwise noted.

 

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