Jonas Wood “Interiors and Landscapes” at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Interiors and Landscapes, an exhibition of new work by Jonas Wood.
The 13 paintings on view, large-scale canvases dedicated to interior and landscape scenes, provide evidence of significant advances in Wood’s technical approach to composition and color. They also showcase his unique ability to communicate emotional depth, humor, and an immersive sense of place. This exhibition solidifies Wood’s position as one of the most important Los Angeles-based painters working today, and as a key inheritor of several lineages of American figurative painting.
Interior and landscape genres have been constant sources of inspiration for Wood since the beginning of his career, generating pictures rendered in oil and acrylic that are among his most ambitious and complex. These works encompass all of the characteristic elements of his vocabulary: surprising perspectival shifts, collage-like disjunctions, dense visual patterning, and gestures that occupy a porous terrain between figuration and abstraction. While the new paintings demonstrate increased formal sophistication––in particular, Wood’s command of subtle tonal variation is on full display, with narrow ranges of colors sensitively handled to depict spatial depth and natural textures––they also shed light on underlying themes that can be found throughout this facet of his oeuvre. Wood’s use of teeming detail, for example, often serves the paradoxical purpose of capturing the feeling of empty spaces; many of his works in these typologies are notable for their conspicuous lack of people, even when they highlight the remnants of human presence.
In Shio’s Studio on Blackwelder, Wood captures the workspace of his wife, the ceramic sculptor Shio Kusaka, not in a state of bustling activity, but at a moment when everything has been packed away in a multitude of cardboard boxes. An image of a woman appears in a photograph, but otherwise the composition hinges upon things that are hidden from sight, so that the eye sifts through Wood’s careful handling of whites, browns, and greys, reveling in many variants of painterly invention achieved with limited means. Even the concrete floor becomes a micro-composition in and of itself, with lozenge-shaped splotches and irregular lines animating the bottom section of the canvas. The concrete blocks that occupy its upper half, by contrast, function as playful bouts with an idealized grid, executed with a combination of precision and looseness that charges them with energy.
Since he often focuses on familiar spaces in which he or his friends and family have lived or worked, Wood’s paintings are frequently suffused with the melancholic light of memory. But as he explores and reinvents their details in paint, these spaces––as well as the things in them––come alive in new ways. Seen up close, the surfaces of the work are filled with countless instances of pinpoint illumination. This vivid intensification of ordinary life, carried forth through attention to color and paint handling, situates Wood as an inheritor of the legacies of artists like David Hockney, Alex Katz, and Alice Neel, whose generous, accessible, and stylized renditions of reality heat their subjects up or cool them down depending on the desired effect.
Some of Wood’s images, on the other hand, have their origins in books, magazines, television broadcasts, or movies. Yet even when he works from found rather than personal sources, he fosters a level of immediacy that makes his images read as though they were born of his own experience. Such is the case with Romancing the Stone, a painting inspired by the 1984 action/romance film of the same name. Here, a lush mountainscape provides the opportunity for Wood to exercise his unparalleled facility with foliage, one of the hallmarks of his work across all typologies. A focused range of greens and blues, applied in controlled dabs, establishes a dense visual field that covers the majority of the canvas and threatens to subsume a small bus depicted making its way through the jungle. Wood provides a wholly contemporary take on Romantic landscape painting, synthesizing popular culture, dramatic extremes of scale, and an almost naïve sense of wonder.
Scholl Canyon 2, another landscape, features a view of a golf course punctuated by antennae and a cell tower. The sky above it is divided into large rectangular areas, each tinted a different shade of grayish blue; while these divisions result from Wood’s use of collaged photographs as studies for his paintings, they enable a degree of abstraction––and moody ambience––reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn’s mid-career landscapes and cityscapes, and in turn, the chromatic experiments of Matisse. (Elsewhere, Matissean forms make a more overt cameo in the interior Helen’s Room, appearing on posters hanging on a bedroom wall.) In works like these, the material world is constructed from color; flat shapes are torqued, stacked, and juxtaposed to create expansive volumes; and Wood channels the fullness of everyday life with economy and a masterfully light touch.
at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
until 16 December 2017