I am interested in exploring the human experience of war, trauma, and memory through painting. In an ongoing effort, I am building many series of paintings, each with a distinct visual language. This work twists, combines and reimagines traditional genres of two-dimensional art making while being Informed by pop-culture, current affairs, and personal experience. Throughout each series, ambiguity serves to discourage any particular narrative, allowing for internal and external discourse, revealing projections of self. With this work, I strive to engage the current sociopolitical environment while challenging belief systems, biases, and cultural ideals.
James Razko was a soldier and clandestine operative who conducted numerous special operations missions while deployed to Iraq. His work is inspired by the current sociopolitical environment and the transformative events he experienced while overseas. Razko completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Stockton University in 2011 and completed his Masters of Fine Arts degree at the New York Academy of Art in 2015. During his time at the Academy, he received the Academy Scholarship, the New Jersey Heart of a Hero Scholarship, was awarded a summer residency in Moscow, Russia and was one of six nominated for the Chubb Fellowship. Razko is a 2018 grant recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation. His work is published in the acclaimed book, The Figure. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Night Vision Scope Paintings
Landscape seen through night vision (NV) goggles is both eerie and sublime. An alien shift in reality. It’s a technology that allows you to look into usually impenetrable voids of darkness, translating events into high-resolution, electric-green monochrome.
These circular NV Scope paintings mimic an actual scope—encasing a moment of violent beauty in a resinous “lens.” The work intends to highlight our proclivity to indulge in, and bear witness to, acts of destruction from an unnatural distance. We are eager to see violence, as long as it is presented through a modifying agent like a screen.
Scenes of war through night vision are part of our cultural fabric: children playing video games launch missiles at virtual enemies; some adults sitting behind similar screens launch actual missiles at targets thousands of miles away; the movie industry constantly uses explosions and the mystique of night vision to draw a bigger audience. These paintings ask viewers to question what it means to find events of unimaginable destruction engaging, entertaining, and beautiful.
Beginning life in a U.S. Forest Service work camp on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and subsequently moving to the glaciated suburbs of Juneau and to the temperate rainforests of western Oregon, it could be said that early engagement with the landscape was less a pursuit than a state of normalcy. But it wasn’t until the college summers fighting wildfire in the mountains of Oregon and Colorado that this state of normalcy began to evolve into a pursuit of understanding the relationship between modern society and our collective ideas of nature. Questions began to crystallize during the time spent working in the photography department of The New Yorker magazine and after leaving the position in 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought an opportunity to work with Robert Polidori on his exhaustive work that documented the devastation of New Orleans. The experience raised even more questions about our sense of place, history, expectations, and ultimately society’s collective literacy in its interpretation of a landscape.
Now, after 14 years living and working in New York and yearly trips to document change in the Great Basin of the Western U.S., an opportunity presented itself to explore different societies and to examine these relationships abroad. In 2017, Kipp’s wife was selected to join the Foreign Service for the Department of State. Within a few months of acceptance, they were sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone for their first tour.