Walk along Prospect Street in La Jolla, and you're bound to see galleries and shops with windows adorned with cheesy, albeit highly detailed, paintings of ocean scenes, likely marketed toward rich tourists. Peter Halasz also paints richly detailed, oil-on-canvas portraits of the La Jolla coast, but his paintings are decidedly darker and more sinister. They're the type you'd see hanging in a museum survey of 19th century French Realism or, just as likely, used as the art for a heavy metal band's album cover. Nighttime landscapes that are evocative and tantalizing, disturbing and apocalyptic.
"A lot of the art you see nowadays is meant to be seen and understood very quickly. My art is meant to be meditative," says Halasz, in his East Village studio and loft. "They're gazers. I like the idea of someone buying one, getting stoned and staring at it for a long time."
These facts alone make it unlikely you'll see his work at any of those Prospect gallery spaces anytime soon. However, a collection of his paintings will be on display at Quint Gallery for a solo show titled Silence, which opens Saturday, June 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. For Halasz, it's a huge honor to be displayed at the legendary contemporary art space, primarily because he grew up down the road in the Windansea Beach area of La Jolla. Considering the aesthetic tones of his paintings, he says people are often surprised to learn that he grew up in La Jolla.
"There was an underbelly to Windansea. Even in the '80s when surfing got a lot more corporate, there was still this derelict element. Weird characters and a lot of drugs," says Halasz, who says he spent much of his formative years getting into trouble around The Clam, and other oceanside hangout spots. "A lot of my friends didn't make it through. Overdoses and suicides. I think that in forms a lot of the paintings. That element of heartbreak and loss, and the mysticism of nature."
He channeled those elements early in his art career and all of the paintings he's displaying at the Silence show are of his beloved Windansea. One piece, "Ghosts 2," shows a surf break at night that almost has an end-of-the-world feel to it, but Halasz is quick to point out that it's the painting's lightness that is key.
"Almost all of my paintings, it's about light. Everything you see is a result of light," he says. "Even a spiritual light. There's a solace in those coastlines with its natural grandeur. Even when I was at my lowest, I could go there and find some kind of peace. That's what a lot of the paintings are about."