Skip to content

John Sonsini

Still Life Stories

May 18June 29, 2024

Gallery I

This image illustrates a link to the exhibition titled John Sonsini: Still Life Stories

Press Release


Opening Reception: Saturday, May 18, 4 – 6 pm

“I don’t think it happened all at once, but over a very short time, it occurred to me that the unfamiliarity I noticed when I returned to painting from life after the pandemic was that the absence of my sitters still hung in the air and I wanted to try to convey that.” -John Sonsini

Vielmetter Los Angeles is excited to present Still Life Stories, John Sonsini’s third solo exhibition with the gallery on view from May 18th through June 29th. For the last 30 years, Sonsini has developed a practice that focuses on painting from life. He is most known for richly layered and nuanced portraits of day laborers whom he’d paint in his studio, many of whom became recurring subjects. During the pandemic, as Sonsini was unable to work with live sitters, this “social practice” (as the artist refers to it) was replaced by working in the studio in solitude. As a result, his work shifted and he began to focus on the objects in his studio creating still lives of his working table; the brushes, the cans of paint, and the objects left behind by his sitters. These mundane objects, offering themselves as readily available subjects, became a representation of the absence Sonsini felt while not being able to work with the sitters.

Painted briskly in beautifully toned colors and confident brush marks, these objects have now metamorphized into portraits of a more subtle nature that hint at a human presence. In every mark, stroke, color, touch of light, wallet or belt, a presence is insinuated and the memory of a movement is expressed. However, rather than depicting the sitter and trying to translate nuances of their personality and mood into paint, Sonsini is now transferring this process to the objects left behind in the studio, bringing the work into a conversation with both the tradition of still life painting and with the formal investigations that the post-impressionists conveyed. The particular arrangement of objects, the play of light and shadow on their surfaces, and the increasingly abstracted marks of paint reflect the more ephemeral aspects of life.

The formal aspect of still lives and the practical reasons why Sonsini began focusing his attention on them also apply to his recent watercolors in the exhibition. The watercolors similarly convey a sense of temporality and immediacy in their aesthetics. In 2023 Sonsini presented a new body of watercolors which were studies after his oil paintings. These new watercolors done from life are expeditious representations of sitters Sonsini has worked with for decades.

Together these new works portray an artist whose confidence in his painterly mark-making has enabled him to create extraordinary beauty and lightness from the studio’s quiet moments.

John Sonsini
“Still Life #12,” 2024
Oil on canvas
18" x 24" [HxW] (45.72 x 60.96 cm); 19 ¹⁄₈" x 25 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (48.59 x 63.83 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON175
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #12." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 18" x 24" [HxW] (45.72 x 60.96 cm); 19 ¹⁄₈" x 25 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (48.59 x 63.83 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Sergio,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas board
24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed
Inventory #SON158
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Sergio." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed. Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas board.
John Sonsini
“David,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas board
24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed
Inventory #SON161
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "David." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed. Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas board.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #10,” 2024
Oil on canvas
48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm); 49 ¹⁄₈" x 37 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (124.77 x 94.29 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON173
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #10." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm); 49 ¹⁄₈" x 37 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (124.77 x 94.29 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #4,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON167
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #4." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #5,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON168
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #5." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #3,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON166
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #3." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Rodney,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas board
24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed
Inventory #SON160
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Rodney." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed. Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas board.
John Sonsini
“David,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas board
24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed
Inventory #SON159
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "David." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed. Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas board.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #9,” 2024
Oil on canvas
48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm); 49 ¹⁄₄" x 37 ¹⁄₄" x 2" [HxWxD] (125.09 x 94.61 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON172
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #9." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm); 49 ¹⁄₄" x 37 ¹⁄₄" x 2" [HxWxD] (125.09 x 94.61 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #11,” 2024
Oil on canvas
20" x 48" [HxW] (50.8 x 121.92 cm); 21 ¹⁄₈" x 49 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (53.65 x 124.77 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON174
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #11." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 20" x 48" [HxW] (50.8 x 121.92 cm); 21 ¹⁄₈" x 49 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (53.65 x 124.77 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Rian,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas board
24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed
Inventory #SON157
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Rian." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 20" [HxW] (60.96 x 50.8 cm); 25 ¹⁄₄" x 21 ¹⁄₈" x 1 ¹⁄₂" [HxWxD] (64.13 x 53.65 x 3.81 cm) framed. Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas board.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #2,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON165
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #2." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #6,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON169
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #6." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #7,” 2024
Oil on canvas
24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON170
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #7." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 24" x 18" [HxW] (60.96 x 45.72 cm); 25 ¹⁄₈" x 19 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (63.81 x 48.57 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #1,” 2024
Oil on canvas
18" x 24" [HxW] (45.72 x 60.96 cm); 19 ¹⁄₈" x 25 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (48.57 x 63.81 x 5.08 cm) framed
Inventory #SON164
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #1." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 18" x 24" [HxW] (45.72 x 60.96 cm); 19 ¹⁄₈" x 25 ¹⁄₈" x 2" [HxWxD] (48.57 x 63.81 x 5.08 cm) framed. Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #8,” 2024
Oil on canvas
48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm)
Inventory #SON171
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #8." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 48" x 36" [HxW] (121.92 x 91.44 cm). Its medium is Oil on canvas.
John Sonsini
“Still Life #13,” 2024
Watercolor drawing on canvas panel
40" x 30" [HxW] (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Inventory #SON162
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
This image depicts an artwork by John Sonsini titled "Still Life #13." This artwork was created in 2024 and measures 40" x 30" [HxW] (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Its medium is Watercolor drawing on canvas panel.

About the artist

John Sonsini was born in Rome, NY in 1950 and received his BA from California State University Northridge in 1975. His work will be the subject of a book written by David Pagel and published by Radius Books forthcoming in 2024. Recent solo exhibitions include A Day’s Labor: Portraits by John Sonsini, Art Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA; and Daywork: Portraits, Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA.

His work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, UT; the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D. C. and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. His work is in the public collections of the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, CA; AD&A Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA; Addison Gallery of American Art, Philips Academy, Andover, MA; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, CA; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; The Frances Young Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Marieluise Hessel Collection, Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; The Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University, Topeka, KS; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County College, Overland Park, KS; Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, UT; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Weatherspoon Museum, Greensboro, NC; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.