Local artist, Brian Petro, is displaying some of his latest works on the walls of Vastu (1829 14th Street NW), now through July 16. The present works, “Supermarket Series” and “Roman Series,” are very different in both their influence and the media used.
When Petro was 22, he took his first trip to Europe and spent some time in Rome and other cities throughout Italy.
“I was just floored by Italy,” said Petro, whose travels inspired his current exhibition, “Roman Series.”
“[In this series,] I like to keep things very simple with the far-away, stoic gaze,” said Petro, referring to photograph prints of ancient ruins and statues hanging on the wall. “I feel it highlights the complexity of Roman society, just through this quiet, staring imagery.”
For the pieces in “Roman Series,” Petro uses a difficult and tedious process that makes each piece of work unique – a process Petro refers to as “photographic thermal transfer.”
“What I do is I shoot on real film, develop and enlarge that and then print that with a four-color press onto paper, a chemical release agent and plastic,” explained Petro. “Then when I heat that, it melts the plastic into the toners and the ink and then I can press it and it will leach off onto another surface. And in this case, the other surface is 140-pound archival paper.”
Also adorning the walls in Vastu are pieces from Petro’s colorful and vibrant “Supermarket Series,” which uses drastically different materials and pays homage to another influential time in the artist’s life.
“One of my first jobs in central Pennsylvania was working in a produce department in a grocery store,” said Petro. “I really loved the physical labor of working in this huge produce department, and I didn’t realize what was happening until years later, but I’d go in early in the morning and pack this huge department full of colors and textures and shapes and smells, and when I’d get done, I’d sit back and have such a gratifying feeling to see all of this wonderful and beautiful stuff. Now I realize that I was putting up an art installation every morning.”
Inspired by the urbane grittiness and the bustling energy of Manhattan, Petro first received the idea for his “Supermarket Series” when he found old signs from supermarkets and bodegas while searching for found art in the city. Petro’s affinity for red apples – and the Big Apple – is fully expressed and captured in this playful and lively series.
“This is my take on still life, just without the fruit in the bowl,” said Petro.