Los Angeles-based artist; Brian Liebenthal has gained a lot of attention in the art world for one simple reason. His work is hip, cool, provocative, sophisticated, and appeals to a broad audience. It could be considered Pop Art, except that a large body of his work looks way back in time at history and historical events. Very few artists have attempted to tackle this genre in such a modern and contemporary way. Yet, he has the uncanny ability to create a striking multi-sensory narrative of people, places, and events that shaped our country. “I knew I was on to something when I saw one of my Civil War Generals hanging in a very modern home right next to a Warhol,” he says. I had successfully taken a piece of history and made it current and accessible.
Liebenthal, who grew up in South Africa where he was exposed to American culture and history from a very early age through movies, TV, books and comics. Besides the typical teen posters adorning his bedroom walls, the central focus was a giant American flag that hung above his bed. This would later become a central theme in his artwork and his US flag paintings have become highly sought after both in the USA and abroad.
There is a clear duality in his work as he paints passages in a beautifully executed classical style using oils right next to drips and spray paint with elements of graffiti for added measure. "Nothing is off limits when it comes to creating art", he says. His skillful use of old documents, advertisements, newspapers etc. enhance the narrative and heighten the interest of his work. “It’s all about challenging the viewer” he says. Besides creating something that is visually pleasing, I want the viewer to revisit the painting over and over with different questions and interpretations. “America has such a rich and colorful history with some similarities and parallel struggles to my home country” says Liebenthal, who came to the USA almost 20 years ago from Johannesburg. “I grew up in a country where possibilities were limited, where civil liberties were granted to only a few, where struggle was a way of life” he says.
After his first visit to the USA in 1983, he knew instantly this would be his home one day and it is very clear in his work that this is an artist who loves his country and is proud to be American. He makes constant reference to the American flag and has produced a body of work based on politicians and generals from the 1800’s. “I choose characters and imagery I find visually interesting” he says. “I have spent countless hours poring over old photographs and daguerreotypes looking at brave men who fought in the civil war, who served in congress, who in many ways helped shape this great country that we know today. “This process has led me on an incredible journey of discovery and has deepened my sense of patriotism” he says. “I have begun to understand that America is an idea, not just a country.” When asked what’ next, he is quick to respond that American history is in the making every day. The 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond are part of our rich cultural history and going to play a major role in his future body of work
Liebenthal’s work hangs alongside well knowns artist, the likes of Andy Warhol and has been exhibited in top-tier art shows including Art Basel Miami, Art Market Hamptons, Scope Art Show. His unique American flag series hangs in prestigious private collections both in the USA and Europe.