Whitehot Magazine

Face Time: A Portrait of Painter David Aaron Greenberg

 Allen Ginsberg and David Aaron Greenberg by Elizabeth Huey NYC 1995


By NOAH BECKER July, 2023

(Quotes and images from David Aaron Greenberg for this article were sourced from an interview with Alexandra Kosloski at thetrops.com)

The high/low-production-values of David Aaron Greenberg's paintings disidentify race - unmooring social and political assumptions. Greenberg has an interest in celebrities and similar in nature to my life experience, and early on, had direct interactions with legendary people in film, TV, music and cinema. "I was around a lot of painters and saw their practice and I knew these things intellectually that, God, it’s just like a day to day job. You got to wake up paint until you’re done and then you go home. Yeah. Like a job," [1] Greenberg mused.

Allen Ginsberg, Peter Hale and David Aaron Greenberg, New York, 1992 by Bruce Weber

Greenberg befriended central beat poet Allen Ginsberg and within the circle of admiring Ginsberg artists, musicians and friends, Greenberg found focus. This influence is heard in Greenberg’s dialogue when speaking about his life and evidenced in his art and his original music. Greenberg says, "It took me my whole life to take myself seriously as a painter. I never did, unfortunately. Or not unfortunately, it was what it was." [2]

Greenberg with Lucas Christino at Eroica Variations presented by The Trops at Villa Lina New York, Summer 2023 by Lilly Charnas 

Reconsidering ideological and visual givens is a more difficult task than people assume. Greenberg directly tackles this task and reifies and mythifies his subjects, paying homage to the people in his portraits. His process of sifting-down traditional identity and focusing on ethnic specificity, silences pre-conceived notions of what making figurative art should be about.

 David Aaron Greenberg, Drawing of Joe Strummer with poem written by Greenberg and Strummer signed by both September 23-24, 2000

Greenberg’s intellectual mode of inquiry hinges upon the personal. "I include everybody. All inclusive. I’m not exclusive. I cheat on myself. I’m in an open relationship with myself," [3] Greenberg says. His veracity for maintaining friendships with people like The Clash’s Joe Strummer, seductively moves Strummer away from rock star stereotypes via Greenberg's pen and brush. The physiognomy of Greenberg's rendering of Strummer’s face and body, ruptures our preconceptions of what being a rock god means.

Greenberg with his painting of Joe Strummer.

David Aaron Greenberg at Moment’s Notice at the Trops, Summer 2021 by David Sisko


Ginsberg with Geoff Manaugh, Eliot Katz and David Aaron Greenberg in New York City, 1995 by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders


Greenberg’s studio and a friend/model in New Brunswick, NJ 2021 courtesy of the artist


David Aaron Greenberg, Allen Ginsberg Moments After Death, 1997 

Greenberg’s creative continuousness hovers around his love of certain colors. Emerald greens and deep blues create spaces in which the paintings can wander and play, traversing the lexicon of fauvism. Irreducible, stark and enigmatic, the monoliths of celebrity melt into Greenberg’s painterly world in a serial way. Unplugging pretense, we experience the person behind the legend - that is the magic feat of Greenberg's art. This approach also pulverizes the confrontational aspect of humans on canvas, especially the glaring eyes that usually haunt viewers, leaving them totally frightened or mesmerized by someone’s visage in paint. The explosiveness occurs when viewers reach the zenith of recognition - a moment of confontation - the ecstatic detonation of the senses.

Pedro Serrano in Greenberg’s studio in New Brunswick, NJ 2022 courtesy of the artist


Greenberg and one of his friend/models in Edison, NJ 2023 courtesy of the artist

What I’m saying is that Greenberg masterfully avoids that simple trap of painting images of glaring faces. Through his friendships with his sitters - things manifest away from basic glaring visages. Greenberg rarely strays from the use of vivid colors painted around and through his paintings. This coloristic aspect grounds the celebrity situation with the deeply personal. "I felt connected to Walt Whitman in some way, and that brought up feelings of myself, my identity, my sexuality, my very existence, my everything, the universe, the cosmos. As he would say, "'Do I contradict myself? Very well. I am vast, I contain multitudes.'" [4] WM


[1] [2] [3] [4] Kosloski, Alexandra, thetrops.com - https://thetrops.com/an-interview-with-david-aaron-greenberg-part-1



Noah Becker

Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023. 


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Email: noah@whitehotmagazine.com

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