Nicola Verlato’s “How the West Was Won” is a visually striking series of oil on canvas that tells the tale of the culture clash between monotheism and polytheism throughout human history. Depictions of wild west cowboys versus natives, depictions of the sacred heart and more flare with brilliance in his remarkable use of oils to create realistic and hyper dynamic images.
Italian born, LA based Verlato believes the religious battle to be at the very roots of the development of western civilization. “Figurative art is intrinsically related to a polytheistic attitude (cult of idols) while the monotheistic one prohibits graven images, as written in the bible,” says Verlato. “Monotheism clearly won in most aspects of western culture but polytheism still survives in pop culture.”
The series is currently showing in Verlato’s solo exhibition at Johnathan Levine Gallery. The gallery breaks down the stories behind the paintings:
One of the paintings is inspired by a medieval legend in which a Christian knight kills a Pagan knight but is castrated by his victim in the process. This symbolizes the loss of “wisdom of the body,” when polytheistic cultures succumb to religious conversion and assimilation into monotheistic ideals. Verlato transposes this narrative into the American Wild West of the 19th Century in his painting Conquest of the West, where a cowboy representing the monotheist attacks a Native American woman, representing the polytheist, who exacts revenge just before she dies. This epic battle scene is the most literal interpretation of the exhibition’s overarching theme, although the connection is looser in many of the other works.
Burzum is a painting inspired by a Norwegian black metal band of the same name, led by Varge Vikernes, a musician who was imprisoned in 1993 for the arson of several churches and murder of Euronymous—a guitarist friend-turned-rival and leading figure in the scene—who he stabbed to death in a dispute over record label business. A Whiter Shade of Pale is a portrait of the late pop-music-icon Michael Jackson, the subject of worldwide idolatry during his life and prolific career, lasting well after his controversial death. Take the Road to Nowhere portrays four young women jumping out of a car as it falls off of a cliff, relating to death as the last frontier; beyond which there is nothing else.
For a zoom-in option, visit the Jonathan LeVine Gallery website.
Images courtesy of Johnathan LeVine Gallery.