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Of the many activities that can take place backstage at a rock concert, drawing charcoal sketches doesn’t seem like one of them. But that’s what artist Todd DiCiurcio has been doing for the past decade while bands like The Killers, Death of Fashion and Grizzly Bear took to the stage. Now — some 30 compositions later — DiCiurcio is the one stepping into the spotlight with his first solo exhibit, which opens Tuesday at Manhattan boîte Santos Party House.
Titled “Synthesis,” the show is a sampling of DiCiurcio’s trademark large-scale, black-and-white tableaux that capture acts in frenetic, midconcert jam sessions. “I want them to be as lifelike as possible,” says the 35-year-old. For DiCiurcio, that means sketching groups while they play their gigs (“I start when they start and end when they end,” he says), and later, transferring the images onto canvases that allow for nearly life-size proportions. “I wanted bigger [canvases], but these were the biggest ones that could fit up my stairs,” he says of the 6-by-8-foot tarps that line the Brooklyn studio-slash-abode he shares with his wife.
Size isn’t the only thing that DiCiurcio insists on. He avoids pop acts, instead opting to only work with rock bands.
Artists from Andy Warhol to Richard Phillips have been similarly inspired, but DiCiurcio believes his live technique sets him apart. He sits in the wings during a show, where concertgoers can’t see him. But if they do, he’s often mistaken as being with the band. “Everyone thinks I’m an auxiliary member,” says DiCiurcio, who boasts shaggy hair, an inked arm and some musical prowess on drums, keyboard and banjo. (Though he quit the string instrument in adolescence because “I felt like a weirdo from ‘Deliverance.'”)
What’s more, the star wattage in DiCiurcio’s Rolodex rivals that of the headliners he sketches. Thanks, in part, to his wife’s career as a publicist for Dolce & Gabbana, DiCiurcio considers the likes of Josh Hartnett and Petra Nemcova “dear friends.” In fact, Nemcova is hosting the kickoff party for his show.
When “Synthesis” closes, DiCiurcio will be on the lookout for his next subject. “I think I’ll just do it by invitation only,” says the artist.