An unusually eclectic crowd for San Jose descended upon Empire Seven Gallery last week for opening the reception of its new show, “Cross Process,” by Josh Marcotte and Kori Thompson, a collection of photos and paintings respectively, along with a collaborative mixed-media section.

Before their joining of forces, both artists were familiar with each others’ work, through The Usuals, a specialist clothing boutique in San Jose that hosts monthly art installations. The pair formally met at a luchador Mexican wrestling event and after hitting it off, decided to collaborate.

Things fell into place when Thompson visited Empire Seven Gallery and learned they were interested both in his work and Marcotte’s. Better yet, the gallery was hoping for a collaboration of some sort—not knowing that’s exactly what they had in mind.

The result, now on display, is a collection of beautiful and contemplative painted photographs: paintings teeming with color and life splashed onto spare yet ethereal photographs. In “Cross Process” this apparent contradiction works—the juxtaposition of Thompson’s vibrant acrylics, meshed with the unforgiving black-and-white of Marcotte’s photographs, creates a strange admixture of mediums that transcends the usual mixed-media art. The pieces become neither photos nor paintings, but a kind of movie storyboard mixture of both.

Both artists were born and raised in San Jose, and their respective work captures different sides of the same city, with a seamless juxtaposition of Thompson’s colorful chock-full of life paintings and Marcotte’s suburban wastelands.

“I know it sounds cliche, but the best camera is in my hand,” says Marcotte, whose photos are fill up half of the exhibition. Marcotte’s photos captures the underlying loneliness of a sprawling, active spaces. Two-thirds of his photos are set in San Jose, but one wouldn’t necessarily know it. His crisp photos capture parking lots and old retail signs, and abandoned or derelict stores, signs and streets. Each work highlights the growing infrastructure aging and death in San Jose that hides behind the shiny new office buildings.

The photos are lonely but not sad, nor depressing, and give off a strange but compelling vibe.

“There’s definitely a personal side to my art,” says Thompson, whose paintings are a mixture of the bustling colors of street scenes and working class environments. Thompson is inspired by the people around him: family, friends, and local strangers. Typically he takes a preparatory photo of his subject and uses it as a reference, painting with a mixture of memory and spontaneity. Thompson’s paintings have precise line-work, where the shapes seem to compete with flourishing color and balance.

There are often many different perspectives in the same painting. Some are close-up, detailed portraits, while others are of anonymous, largely indistinguishable people working or eating at an outdoor cafe. The paintings combine raw, almost sketch-like draftsmanship with a defined sense of atmosphere.

Together in their combined pieces, the very different styles of the two men should, in theory, should clash. And they do—but with a surprising and coherent power that is, in many cases, not just greater than the sum of their parts, but a wholly distinct and powerful vision.

“Cross Process”
New works by Josh Marcotte and Kori Thompson
Exhibit runs through Aug 30, 2013 at Empire Seven Studios