Tuesday, October 16, 2012


This past weekend the first show by Miami-based art gallery 101/exhibit went on display in their new space at the elegant end of Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, California.  The choice for the inaugural opening was a new set of paintings and graphic works by Jason Shawn Alexander entitled {sic}.  The word "sic" is most commonly used today as editorial demarcation of intention when grammatical or spelling mistakes are included in a citation, that said mistakes are being intentionally reproduced without editing.  Quite an apt title for Alexander's work, because although it is obviously well-rendered, there is in the vigorous skritching and almost scribbling of the layers of paint flecks of lost color painted over, lines of the sketching peering through or left bare, and various flotsam and jetsam the mapping of a creative process on canvas.  And that's how they were meant to be.

Simply put, the paintings are monolithic as are the figures contained therein. Though they often float freely within their compositions, the figures contain an all too human fragility. They would have substance if they were to suddenly land in your arms.  They can be elegantly ugly. They can possess passion though seemingly on the verge of lost vitality. One gets the impression that the flecks and flicks and splats of paint and ink across these canvases is no different from the sweat and pores and hair of any actual person. It's figurative work of a certain rawness that many artists have hunted and some have captured once again made all the more resoundingly refreshing in the collective of the cute, the clever, and the cartoon that much of the Los Angeles art scene has been given over to. 

There's a danger in the land this work occupies that other recent work I've viewed does not, no matter how soaked in blood it is.

Having followed Alexander's work over a number of years now, what I found most surprising was the introduction of a wider color palette.  The blacks, whites, rusts, and unbleached titaniums weren't wholly absent, but they'd been joined by vivid reds and soft blues that I'd not seen before in the work. But instead of being a jarring change, it opened up an electricity within what's been a consistent vision and emotional tone in the pieces.  Pardon me if this sounds blasé, but keeping such weight in a brighter context is much the equivalent of pulling off a successful and suspense-filled horror film shot entirely in broad daylight with little or none of the familiar tropes of scares in the shadows.  To my mind, it was the indication of transition in Jason Shawn Alexander's work, and I shall remain curious as to the direction until I see where it goes. 

A smaller back room houses a selection of Alexander's drawings, both for comic books as well as a fine series depicting a blues musician.  It is perhaps fortunate that they have been separated from the giants.  In spite of their strength of visual story-telling or the vitality of the line,  they would likely be lost in the context of the painted work.  A catalogue for the show is available, and though it flattens out the textures of the paintings, the reproductions reveals how strongly graphic the work is.

{sic} is on display at the new 101/exhibit space in West Hollywood in Los Angeles, California through November 23rd. Visit the 101/exhibit site HERE for more information.