When you walk into HudsonJones Gallery, at first glance it might appear bare. The one room gallery is flooded with light, flanked with beautiful red brick and accented with sleek light wood. It is a beautiful space – contemporary while highlighting its industrial bones. Throughout the center of the room stand three walls and nothing else. You might ask yourself if you have caught the gallery in between shows. You’ll take a few steps further. A glimpse of color. Now walk down the stairs. Suddenly the room is a wash of vibrating color- grids made of small but expansive paintings. The contents of each are barely contained within their copy paper sized frame. They pull your eyes back and forth across each wall. The room is full of artwork now, overflowing with evenly spaced and equally sized looking glasses into imagined landscapes.
Meet me at the Horizon by Jack Arthur Wood is an extraordinary collection of windows into intimate, reflective and erratic scenes. Each of the 125 mixed media paintings are only 8.5 x 11 x 2 inches yet are so full and energized that they look like they are tearing themselves apart to expand into real space. Their intimate size pulls you towards them, calling out from the grid to be inspected individually. They draw your face close to the frame. When you meditate on each, you’ll see fully formed places full of depth, as if the paintings are bigger on the inside. I want to step through their borders, into them, like a story book.
Each painting starts with a horizon- the grounding thread throughout this eclectic body of work. This takes the form of a gradient. Bright, unconventional color parings blend and fade in and out of purity, neon green, to deep rose, to tangerine. Deep purple into coral into magenta. Your eye fills in the horizontal fields of color with visions of once-in-a-life-time sunsets and alternative realities where they sky is fire truck red. Wood describes each piece as a landscape, however the walls of his definition are loose and malleable. Some pieces are more figurative, others lean towards the geometric and the abstract. Some feel representative but of a place not based in physical reality.
Wood’s background in printmaking, combined with an interest in painterly techniques, produces textures and treatments unidentifiable at first glance. The smeared horizon lines echo textures created by slowly and intentionally pulling ink across a silk screen. The smooth creamy quality of the backgrounds unify the body of work. Beginning from a consistent starting point allows Wood’s spontaneous and unpredictable aesthetic to take over. He uses spray paint, stencils, colored pencil, brayer, brush and paint pen to create layers upon layers of movement and form. Areas are peeled away and reapplied, building depth and obscuring the skyline.
They look like collages of brightly printed paper or fabric. A few pieces feel like wood block prints, made up of clunky forms and simple detail. Others are highly detailed with intricate pattern and adornment. The melding of the abstract with the figurative and the distortion of perspective in space is reminiscent of work by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. They share a visual language of layered complexity and unapologetically loud color.
The 2 inch thick edges of each piece are cleverly painted with a tight gradient. The colors chosen are the dominant tones of each piece, like the color spectrum of these painted worlds. Their purpose is so simple but so necessary- to separate each painting and give it its own identity. A grid of paintings this bright and this full of movement could not read individually without this key element. The borders contain each work and solidify the notion that each is a unique window into different landscape of the artist’s mind.
I found myself compelled to string these works into a narrative, relating scenes to one another based on color of content. These works are left so open ended and abstract, the viewer is given full control of their meaning. I found myself relating them to quilt squares on a story quilt. Each sew together with secret meaning and personal history. Narrative or not, each work is compelling in its own right and as a collective whole. The sheer number of works is overwhelming and leaves the viewer with imagery, textures and compositions to mull over long after the show.
It was a pleasure to view this work- the culmination of Wood’s master’s thesis from Texas A&M University. I have followed Wood’s work for over 10 years, seeing his style develop in the A.P. Studio Art class we shared. I feel as though I witnessed Wood’s ‘a ha’ moment when he began to mix mediums and build layer upon layers of paint, pencil and marker. He had found a style and a sensibility that not only encapsulated his unique personality but his developing voice as an artist. I see remnants of those high school experiments in these pieces. The rough quality of the line work, the interest in seeing how disparate mediums interact. Even then he was playing with amorphous shape, drawing undulating worm like creatures around and through themselves on the canvas. Of course, Wood’s work has changed and grown dramatically since then but the seed of the idea is the same.
Viewing this show was exciting. It left me with a coursing energy. I felt inspired. Inspired to experiment, to combine new things. To get my hands dirty and smear paint across paper, cut it up and glue it together again. It feels like possibilities. Wood’s work is fascinating because it demonstrates the vastness that can be found within a 8.5 x 11 x 2 inch space. It conveys chaos, calm, frustration, anger, and love- presented it in an ordered 5 x 5 frame grid.
Meet me at the Horizon is on display at HudonJones Galley through November 6, 2017.
–Chelsea Borgman is an artist and writer living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the gallery director at Brazee Street Studios.