Artist of the Week: Surreal Oil Paintings by Alex Gross

Alex Gross was born in 1968, on the 30th of August, in Roslyn Heights, New York. In 1990 he graduated from the Art Center College of Design in California, and has been working in Los Angeles ever since, becoming an established artist in the Pop surrealism movement.

As stated in the introduction written by Bruce Sterling to Alex Gross’ book, The Art of Alex Gross, his wonderfully unnerving paintings explore the themes of globalization, commerce, great beauty, dark mayhem, and the remorseless passage of time, that when blended with his surreal style, are reminiscent of the Godfather of Surrealism, Salvador Dali.

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In the year 2000, following a fellowship from the Japan Foundation, he traveled through Japan for two months. During his time there, he collected a large and eclectic number of Japanese Fine and Commercial art to research his own works. A significant part of this collection was published and compiled later on, in 2004, by renowned art book publishers Taschen.

2007 saw the release of The Art of Alex Gross, a monograph that showcases his paintings, drawings, and printmaking from 1999 to 2007. It was published by Chronicle Books, and it included works of his featured in such publications as Los Angeles Magazine, Juxtapoz, The Los Angeles Times, XFUNS, and the book Pop Surrealism.

2007 was also the year that Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center hosted a retrospective of his works throughout the years, collected from private owners. The show received rave reviews, the Orange County Register stating that “It makes one ponder the absurdities of life, many of which are reflected in modern advertising. (Think of stuntmen hawking cars by doing reckless driving maneuvers followed by warnings against anyone trying to replicate them)”.

To show you just how stunning his paintings are, we have prepared a list of some of his most impacting works. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a fantastic journey into one truly unique artist’s interpretation of the world around us.

Cabinet Card Paintings


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These are ten examples from his “Cabinet Card” collection. What they are is cabinet card photographs, taken in the 19th century, on top of which he has painted iconic figures from current pop culture.

The original photographs portray every-day, working class people, people who’s lives seem to have no impact on our own in any way. But these are the unsung heroes of the industrial revolution. Workers who, just by earning a living, made the world we live in today possible.

Take the 2nd painting, for example. It perfectly illustrates the artist’s message of solidarity with the working class, depicting Clark Kent in the middle of transforming in to Superman, the most iconic superhero there is. Remember that this is an old timey photo of an ordinary man. A nameless face in the crowd, much like Superman’s alter-ego.

Another superhero-inspired painting is the 6th one. This one is a little bit more tongue-in-cheek. It depicts another iconic American superhero, Captain America, only it’s missing the blue in the classic “red, white and blue” color scheme, making him look a bit more proletarian than venture-capitalist.

Product Placement


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Product Placement is Alex Gross’ most recent exhibition. A collection of surreal paintings that aim to highlight, and sometimes critique, the surreal nature of consumerism in modern society. Globalization is another powerful theme explored in this collection, as we can ever so plainly see in the 5th painting, titled Dior, that has a wonderful palm tree and desert backdrop, only to pull you out of the exotic wilderness with a McDonald’s sign with Arabic writing, protected by a tank. The gorgeous blonde model talking on the phone is the main focus of this painting, and she merely serves to accentuate the stark contrast between glamor and conflict; two very publicized aspects of modern culture.

Other exotic elements include the iguana that the model is caressing, the dodo bird which is extinct, and the animal print garment that the model is wearing. The two animals are seen as accessories to the two women, rather than living beings themselves. This represents man’s indifference to others suffering when faced with the prospect of gain.

The 2nd painting is called Original Sin, and it is a very unsubtle throwback to the original sin myth in the christian bible, but it does not need to be, the biblical tale being just the starting point for this spectacular painting. Once again, we have a superb backdrop, made up of a field filled with yellow flowers. This contrasts with the mostly cloudy sky and the red-brown, industrial revolution era factory further in the background.

This time, the main focus of the painting is the Coca-Cola dispenser with Chinese writing on it (again, a symbol for globalization), and the two characters; an iguana-headed man, wearing plain brown trousers, and a yellow cardigan with a checkered shirt underneath; and a beautiful East-Asian woman, wearing a gray-green checkered skirt, red buttoned-up shirt, and an orange cardigan.

It is unclear who is tempting who in this painting. Although it appears that the lizard man is offering the drink to the woman, the woman is the one that is classically beautiful. On the other hand, the snake, that we can see slithering on the Coca-Cola dispenser, is closer, both physically and zoologically speaking, to the man, and it is the snake who lures Adam and Eve into original sin. But again, the snake appears to be starring at the woman’s Louis Vutton purse, so maybe it is the snake himself that is being tempted.

The heads looking out from between the yellow flowers are another really cool aspect of this painting. One of the heads is Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of Chine, and the man who brought communism to China. He seems to looking away from the scene (turning his back, as it were) with disapproving eyes. This could proof of the artist’s great sense of humor, Mao Zedong being seen as either anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist icon, or genocidal maniac, or both.


We hope you enjoyed our list of some of Alex Gross’ best paintings. If you really liked them, be sure to check out his website here for more of his brilliant paintings. Also, don’t forget to share your favorite paintings from the list, or otherwise, in the comment section below.

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1 Comment Artist of the Week: Surreal Oil Paintings by Alex Gross

  1. Anonymous Jun 11, 2018 at 04:52

    Just amazing tutorial.


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