If you ask painter Noah Erenberg about any creative choice, odds are you’ll get one specific response: “It’s radical.”
Radical is Erenberg’s guiding principle. It’s why he uses oil paints; it’s his justification for artistic choices like making porcupines green and hanging a surfboard above the art bar being built in his backyard, it’s why he paints at all.
Erenberg, an individual on the autism spectrum, lives in San Luis Obispo in a one-story half brick house that also contains his studio-slash-gallery with thirty of his pieces on display. His art reflects his imagination, creating characters like the subject of his piece “Diva,” a portrait of a being clad in all black from whose head vibrant turquoise strokes erupt, suggesting a mohawk or an even edgier hairstyle. The closed off detailing on the eye and mouth of the figure confirm what the ‘do suggests. This diva is cooler than you. This diva is radical.
Noah’s workplace is pretty radical, too. The studio/gallery attached to his bedroom displays thirty of his paintings, naturally lit by two skylights and seven windows set high on the walls of the space. A portrait-in-progress sits on his worktable, surrounded by paint supplies, a couple iPads he uses to listen to hip hop and watch videos, as well as a cage containing a chameleon Noah excitedly introduces as Monster Man. A litter box belonging to Kobe Bryant, Erenberg’s cat, sits beside the worktable. Floor to ceiling cubbies contain expected supplies like paint and cardboard as well as the less expected old guitars, green rope lights, and a snowboard.
Another extreme sporting equipment turn nontraditional canvas is the surfboard hanging above Erenberg’s art bar, an outdoor bar he’s been assembling and painting with one of his roommates. Swaths of bright reds, pinks, yellows, and greens are covered in letters on the front panel of the bar, appearing to act as an abstract portrayal of the surfboard above the bar. Noah’s favorite part of the bar? The green lights he’s planning to hang on the top.
A cheeky hand-painted sign advertises Happy Hour and prices on imports and domestics as if the art bar were a licensed watering hole. Even though it’s not, Erenberg plans to have a party or two.
This brand of humor permeates all of his art. Erenberg doesn’t consider himself to be a comedian (he replies with a simple, polite “No” when asked), but he loves to laugh. He laughs when he’s talking about hip hop. His CD tower is packed with titles from Master P, Erykah Badu, and Ginuwine, among others. He laughs even when he’s talking about the CD tower, a wood sculpture of an elongated man sitting, elbows on knees. Erenberg refers to the sculpture as “Cousin Jerry” with a giggle.
Noah Erenberg’s Own Interpretation
Erenberg also laughs when he’s talking about his own work. Erenberg has a show at the Tri-Counties Regional Center, a non-profit providing services and supports for people with developmental disabilities residing in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, through June 30th.
He changes names and interpretations of pieces, not with any sort of dishonesty but perhaps a fluid truth about what each piece makes him think and feel at that moment. Erenberg says to look out for pieces named “Carrot Cake”, “Janet”, “Frank”, and “Carl.” When I arrive, I realize that none of the pieces are named “Carrot Cake”, “Janet”, “Frank”, or “Carl”.
What the 14 piece collection does include is a spectrum of Erenberg’s work- sweeping landscapes like “West Beach” and “Volcano,” the text-based piece titled “A Word Painting,” as well as more abstract pieces mixed with his stick figure imagery like “Yellow Line” and “A Walk on the Beach.”
Whether the fake names are a gag Erenberg played on a journalist whose questions he was tiring of or a representation of his fluid relationship with his pieces, they speak volumes about the care-free, whimsical endeavor that art is to Erenberg.
When asked if he ever gets frustrated while making art, he responds with a confident, “No!” I push: he never gets stressed even if he feels like he’s stuck on a piece, “Nope!”
And that is why Noah Erenberg is so radical.
Erenberg’s art is represented by the Good Luck Gallery in Los Angeles. His art studio will be open to the public for 2 weekends: October 8-9 and 15-16, 2016 as part of the ArtsObispo open studios tour in San Luis Obispo. Bring a random weatherproof item to contribute to the Art Bar as Noah will be serving drinks to donors.