Art Review: Jonathan Gardner at Casey Kaplan Gallery
by Stephanie del Carpio MFA 2017
|"Bather with a Yellow Towel"|
As artists, and more so as painters, we have a complex relationship to the past. Jonathan Gardner embraces it and reinvents it into a wonderful pastiche of figures and patterns. His reverence for art history feels genuine and the historical references he utilizes never feel forced – but are rather a quirky yet deliberate celebration of those that came before us.
Looking at his paintings is a joy to art history buffs and amateurs alike. You can almost play a game of “name the modern master” with every painting. On the roster one quickly comes across Matisse, Cezanne, Balthus, Picasso, Dali, and if you look carefully, you may even spot a dog resembling that of a Roman era mosaic in the painting entitled, “Connection.” The figure in “Bather with a Yellow Towel,” recalls an ancient Egyptian pose in the position of her feet and body posture. A favorite moment comes in the form of a cheeky nod to the Rococo, as the “Reclining Nude” looks back toward her purposeful exposed posterior while expertly displaying her top half.
With a play on medieval perspective, he develops intricately composed interiors only to splice them into mismatched mirror images, to the benefit of the stylized figures that inhabit them. The relationship between model and artist is also at play here. In “The Model,” Gardner depicts a would be painter maneuvering their canvas as the model looks on. There is also a repeated use of the “painting within a painting,” which works to negate any potentially perspectival spatial logic. Gardner's aim is not an illusionistic kind of painting – after all, he is a student of the Chicago Imagists and their penchant for fantastical caricature comes across loud and clear. Not unlike Roger Brown and Barbara Rossi, Gardner uses patterns to compose his interiors, creating a color and linear harmony while developing impossible reflections. His compositions are methodical. In each square inch he presents a give and pull of color blocks and shapes that fill up the canvases like puzzle pieces - what starts on one corner continues on the opposite side and what creeps in below reemerges on top.
Being a figurative painter in this day and age is a tricky business – how much of a nod to the past is too much? In his first New York solo exhibition, Jonathan Gardner is successful in playfully demonstrating his love of art history, in a very serious way. The monumental size of his canvases speak of the weight and responsibility that is being the next link in the long chain of representational and figurative oil painters.
|"In the Mirror"|