Shaken and Stirred: Jonas Wood at David Kordansky Gallery
Straight up, Jonas Wood’s solo show at the David Kordansky Gallery (through May 12th) is one of my favorite shows of 2012 thus far. His larger-than-life, vibrant, and bright paintings are fetching, nostalgic, and cheerful. They are not “cheerful” in a sickening, sugarcoated, Katy-Perry-esque way, but in one that is varied, unexpected, and welcome. Some of the imagery and styles bring to mind childhood memories and the accompanying nostalgic feelings. - Ellen Caldwell, LA Contributor
The parrot-patterned bedspread (which appears in two of his paintings) reminds me of family-comforters-past and guest rooms at friends’ houses. But the seemingly simplistic details of the parrots go far beyond a childhood style or naïveté. There are complex moments in Wood’s paintings that recall or at least lean towards Cezanne’s tilted tables and early plays with Cubism and abstraction.
In the lower left corner of “MV Guest Room,” for instance, the comforter drapes over the angled foot of the bed, revealing a woolly, earth toned carpet on the floor beneath. Wood gives almost no hints of depth or shadow, but somehow he completely leads the viewer through the details of this room. Similarly, the pair of Bertoia chairs depicted behind the bed is comprised merely of crosshatchings and tic-tac-toes. But these lines hint at depth, both suggesting and revealing the illusion Wood has created in a way that is both playful and deeply intelligent. He plays with the space, tilting the bed towards the viewer and tilting the chairs slightly away, making the viewer feel central and integral to the work.
Wood offers another form of nostalgia in his James Worthy NBA trading card. In further play with depth, I loved following the crowd depicted behind Worthy’s action shot. From the foreground to the background, the crowd moves from mildly abstracted faces, to blotchy and blurred suggestions of faces, back into totally geometric shapes which truly register nothing when looked upon on their own, but which lead the viewer to completely imagine a crowd when viewed within the frame of the trading card. There is something very special in these blotches and shapes – a monumental moment captured with an abstracted yet stylized precision.
In “Calais Drive,” a (slightly creepy) man looks in from the pool outside into a window. Again, Wood uses abstraction to play with the viewer, but the abstraction is not totally linear and clear, leaving the viewer unsure of what is splicing the forms showing through the window and what is reflecting what. The painting suggests that the glass and possibly the water has to do with the puzzled disfiguring, but the science is not altogether there. Here, Wood continues to walk and blur a line between abstraction and reality.
And finally, the star of the show in my book is “BBall Studio.” I love everything about the office space that Wood has created and catapulted the viewer into. As the largest piece in the show, the office literally invites viewers to stand in front of it – almost to scale. And as one stands in front of this massive painting, this disjointed feeling Wood reigns over makes the painting tilt toward you so that you feel as if you could be occupying this alternative reality.
Standing in front of it, I was quite literally not able to make sense of the room and its angles. The way it posits you as the viewer causes a dizzying and unsettling effect in a very fierce way. Looking at the wheels of the table in the lower left corner, for instance, you cannot see the ground on which it is situated and it leaves you as a viewer in a similarly tenuous situation.
I left the show feeling shaken and stirred with a new interest in still lifes and a new fascination with Wood’s world.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.