Revved-Up Artist

Rey Isip gets behind the artistic wheel to portray the beauty of cars and the stirrings of the soul

?Cobra 427 Noir,? an original acrylic.

?Cobra 427 Noir,? an original acrylic.

Blood-test results at this man?s annual physical must fascinate the lab techs.

?I definitely have gasoline in my veins,? says 78-year-old Rey Isip, who converts that metaphorical fuel into a creative engine that drives his Pedal to the Metal exhibit of automobile artwork now at the Left of Center Gallery.

Yes, he paints portraits of Porsches. Yes, he?s owned real-life Porsches. ?It was important for me to have a fancy car,? he says. ?But now what?s important is to have a van so I can haul my paintings around. I have a Toyota Sienna van now.?

How automotively bland but artistically practical.

Along with his collection of abstract work, Expressions From Within?the latter on the gallery?s second floor, complementing Pedal on the first floor?the summerlong show marks the first exhibition in Las Vegas for Isip, now in his third year as a resident, and the first double-exhibition of a single artist at Left of Center, totaling 44 pieces.

?I knew his cars were really well done, and when he brought in the abstracts I just said, ?Wow, we?ve got to do a full exhibit,?? gallery director Marylou Evans says. ?There?s a richness to the paintings and movement and texture and the way he layers his colors. And he has a great background as an artist.?

After polishing his design skills at New York?s Pratt Institute and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Isip raced into a decadeslong industrial design career, plying his skills for companies including Ford and Chrysler, as well as consulting for auto manufacturers in Japan.

?I was making a ton of money designing, I had my own company with 13 people working for me, but I got tired and I wanted to make more of a personal statement,? Isip says. ?This was a big surprise for me, this journey, that I could be painting until I fall over.?

Vividly reflecting his automotive passion, Pedal is a paean to the muscularity, sensuality, sleekness and machismo allure of cars including Porsches, Ferraris, Camaros, Cobras, Bugatti racers, Lamborghinis, Alfa Romeos, a Mercedes-Benz, even a Cadillac. Lushly colored?some nearly dreamlike, as if dipped inside a rainbow?most seem in a state of perpetual motion, several steered by ghostly driver-figures.

?Cars [in portraits] have to be very accurate, but to loosen up that car is very difficult,? Isip says. ?Some automotive artists approach it from a photographic standpoint. They?ll copy every reflection they see, and it can be very static. I like to cover the emotion of the car. Do you feel the speed? Is it a muscle car? Whether my cars are portrayed sitting still or on the road, they have a speed to them.?

While Pedal embraces his four-wheel focus, Expressions plucks the artist?s soul in abstract terms, but still in Isip?s powerfully colored style. Presenting themselves boldly to the eye, the pieces are also swirling with nuance and imagination, encouraging viewers to tease out figures and themes.

?I?m pulling out stuff inside of me that I didn?t even know was there,? says Isip, citing one piece, ?Serendipity,? in which, against a gray-green backdrop, dashes and flashes of white and orange seem to impulsively jump off the canvas.

?Some people have told me they see almost religious things in it, people in little shrouds, and I?m like, ?Whoa!?? Isip says. ?It?s not what the artist sees, it?s what you see. My father was an advertising designer and he painted abstracts. I looked at them for years and kept seeing different things every day. It?s a moment in time.?

As his automotive impressions idle alongside his emotional expressions, Rey Isip is mastering the skill of artistic gear-shifting.

Pedal to the Metal/Expressions from Within by Rey Isip

Noon-5 p.m. Tue-Fri, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat through August 31, Left of Center Gallery, 2207 W. Gowan Rd., free, 647-7378,

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