Ira Stein confronts a topic that is challenging – genetic determinism. Using portraiture as a deceptively innocuous medium, Stein interprets his subjects based solely on the secrets exposed during the studio sessions. These sessions can take up to weeks or months before one brushstroke is put to canvas. In these sessions, models are asked about their family history. The interview process always begins with these questions:
Do you love your mother?
Do you like her?
Do you love your father?
Do you like him?
From these seemingly benign queries, an emotional (and most often troubling) responses that fuels the production of a psychoanalytical portrait.
The portraits are unsettling, rough, raw, and purposeful. In these works, authentic expressions of humanity are shared willingly with an anonymous viewer. Stein departs with a purely formalistic approach by insisting that interpretative materials accompany each portrait. The goal of including a textual component to the work is to clearly indicate the artist’s intentions by anchoring the sitter’s identity to the stories shared during the interview process.
Beside each portrait, the unfiltered retelling of the molestation, addiction, and abuse are shared, along with questions directed towards the viewer about the essential nature of our being. The inclusion of a textual guide to comprehend the complexity of his work is an integral part of his production. Just as his artistic process begins with an interview, the work now becomes complete when Stein can interrogate his audience about the nature of humankind as seen through his fractured emblematic women.
Unapologetically, Stein’s artworks bluntly place freewill against genetic determinism. Stein firmly believes that genetic traits dictate the person we become. He has spent years painting and listening to women and is convinced that it all comes down to hereditary factors. If questioned about his declaration, he routinely responds, “Can you think of anything you do that isn’t a result of your genetics?”
Born in Brooklyn, New York
Lives and works in Los Angeles, California
Apprenticeship with Laddie John Dill
Apprenticeship with Tom Wudl
Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture
Gemological Institute of America - Certified Gemologist
University of California Los Angeles (Art History)
Monterey Peninsula College (Photography)
2015 Genetics, I. Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Ira Stein, Saatchi Art, Los Angeles, CA
2013 Eye on Stein, Bubar’s Gallery, and Santa Monica, CA
2010 Ira Stein, Santa Monica Fine Art Studios, Santa Monica, CA
Selected Group Exhibitions
2015 New Perspectives, New Century Artists, Inc., NYC, NY
2009 LA Biennial Exhibition, LA Municipal Art Gallery, LA, CA
2008 Public Art Project, Westside Arboretum Gateway Complex, SM, CA
Artists for the Children, William Turner Gallery, SM, CA
2007 Faces to Come, Soapbox Gallery, Venice, CA
Ira Stein’s art deals with issues that are difficult to talk about – sexual and physical abuse, social responsibility and what he feels is the dumbing down of society. As you will see, his works are bound together by his fascination with genetics and how it determines “all the shit you do.” His mantra, “Fuck Wisely” is a raw summation of his perspective on how society is evolving.
Stein is a trained artist, a Vietnam veteran, former commercial airline pilot, and was a renown jeweler. With such an interesting and varied personal background, his works convey a well-rounded, multi-dimensional and inventive interpretation of the world surrounding him. His sculptures, mixed-media collages and figurative paintings all provide a glimpse into the psyche of an artist grasping with the notion of genetic essentialism viewed from the perspective of the troubled, vulnerable, and erotic female.