56 HENRY is pleased to announce Dramatic Pictures, the first solo exhibition at the gallery by Canadian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Tristan Unrau. The exhibition will be on view May 12 through June 19, 2022.

Dramatic Pictures presents five new paintings by Unrau, all made in 2022. The central work, Dramatic Landscape, is based on one of John Martin’s mezzotint engravings illustrating John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, titled Adam and Eve Driven Out of Paradise. Unrau has copied the print in oil on canvas but cropped out the whole right part of the original so that we do not see Adam and Eve but only a dramatic landscape in vibrant reds. In the original print the landscape is symbolic of an imperfect world, yet it is vast and dynamic, far from the hellish environs you might expect to land in after being expelled from paradise. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the garden but perhaps they prefer their new setting? By cropping the print and making the landscape the central motif, Unrau suggests paradise isn't what is lost but what has been in front of you all along.

Unrau intentionally does not have a recognizable visual style. The consistency of his work lies more in the subject matter of his paintings, many of which, just like those in this exhibition, are culled from film stills, posters, magazine covers, and cartoons. Dramatic Pictures includes painted versions of stills from Jean-Pierre Melville’s French gangster classic The Red Circle (1970) and Éric Rohmer’s iconic La Collectionneuse (1967). The latter was Rohmer’s first movie in color and is famous for its subtle cinematography. It is a comedy-drama about four young people spending the summer in Saint Tropez; one of them, Haydée, is the main object of desire for the other protagonists. Unrau’s painting is named after her as an allusion to the seduction of painting and images in general.

Another work, Encounters 1915, is based on a Scientific American magazine cover from 1915 depicting a submarine attack on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, with a zeppelin hovering above. The title refers to the meeting of the three vessels in the painting but also points to the encounters, and the tensions, among the pieces in the exhibition, all of which are simultaneously realistic and cartoonish, and slightly uncanny.

Dramatic Pictures, the exhibition’s namesake, stands out from the other works in that it does not have a direct source image or reference. In it, an anthropomorphic dog watches TV in an apartmentfilled with plants and books. The dog could be watching Melville’s Red Circle or Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse; we recognize in him our own confusion, arousal, and delight in the face of pictures.

Tristan Unrau (b. 1989) ​holds an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Recent solo exhibitions include False Idols, Unit 17, Vancouver (2021); 50 Million Years, Towards, Toronto (2020); and A New Day, Phil Gallery, Los Angeles (2018).