Thursday, February 16, 2012
JOSH Artforum Cover Shoot - 2005 - 18 in x 24 in - Photographic Prototype
Ok- My second sick day at home has prompted me to do some much needed blogging. The last blog I did was a year ago- pretty whack, so I'm going to try to get back on it this year. As everyone knows, its hard to find the time to do all of the shit you want to do all of the time in this town.
Obviously over this last year I've been on and received many studio visits and have neglected to write about any of them. So I'm just going to start fucking doing it again. I'll start with the artist Josh Jordan, because he is a great man and a great mystery, and a great painter.
I rode my bike to Josh's studio in Greenpoint on gray Autumn day. Inside he has A LOT of work. He is a fucking hard working artist. Josh's website and contact info are here: http://www.joshjordan.info/
I recommend going over and seeing this work for your self. There's an overwhelming sense of overload as soon as you walk in. There is a lot to dig through- he has a few bodies of work happening at once. His main three focuses are painting, drawing, and video. There are thought strains leading in many of directions, but they all lead back to one thing, and that thing is Josh.
Like myself, Josh Jordan grew up in the rolling, polite flatness of the Midwest (Ohio- him, Indiana- me), in a smallish, idyllic town on I-70 that I used to drive through on my trips to and from art school in Baltimore.
(Side note- among many other things both pleasant and not, Baltimore is home to the Nudashank Gallery, which has an amazing show up right now of the lovely wonderful talented Gina Beavers, my Serious Homie. Did I tell you I just learned how to make hot links?)
Alright, all of that aside, Josh grew up the best artist in a small town in Ohio. I'm sure many of you can relate to this. You are the best and then suddenly you go away to school and you are one of the many bests that are there. Then maybe you manage to become one of the best at your art school and you graduate and move to the Big City and suddenly you are one of the thousands of bests from all of the art schools all over the world and everyone there is grinding, clawing, climbing, running themselves into the ground to try to get a show or make something happen, wishing so much they could again feel that feeling they felt back home where everyone worshiped their skills and told them they were great. I'm rambling.
Well, I feel that as a way of sorting through these things and many other feelings about life as an artist, or just as a person, Josh has created his own fan club devoted to JOSH.
Holding Out For A Hero, 2006 - 44 in x 54 in - Acrylic On Canvas
This "fanclub" mentality is an entryway into this work. It seems strange at first and then it makes perfect sense. To meet Josh you would never call him an egoist or a self promoter. In his work he is neither of these things as well, what he is is honest. To be an artist is to obsess over one's self, on many levels, and take it out to the world and say "Look at me! er, ahem, Look at what I made everybody!". A person's art is always some kind of gateway into their psyche. With Josh, like many others, that fact is more on the surface. But he puts it out there in a very layered way- some subtle layers and some very obvious ones. There's a nice balance in the self obsession. It feels more like self discovery. With the other Josh, the Smith one, it feels like a big "Ha Ha Fuck You, look I'm just making art with my name holy shit!" Though I do like that work. I'm just saying with Josh Jordan there is a sincerity along with the irony, and there is a deep mining of his own personal history- though which part of that history is fantasy and which part is actual is left unclear. I believe in his studio I only saw one photograph he took of himself crying, so there you go.
Though, like I said, Josh makes video and drawings, I choose here to focus mostly on his paintings because they really floored me, in the weirdest nicest way. It's always heartening to go somewhere and expect one thing but get an entirely other thing. Josh works on canvas, in acrylic, though they really feel like oil. There is a slick classicism to the surface. I particularly love how the style of the work varies so much in each individual painting. Somehow Josh makes it feel seamless, even though he's fluctuating between a kind of realism, into a kind of cartoonism, and into flat out caricature in some places. The surface is smooth yet labored. The compositions are pretty flawless. The end result is down right seductive.
Let's Hear It For The Boy, 2000 - 44 in x 54 in - Acrylic On Canvas
There is a real richness and intricacy to these paintings. But its never pretentious. They feel open and honest. There is a theater to them. Josh sort of creates a stage set then sets the characters into it, as though you've walked into a movie in the middle of it during a scene of great choral jubilation, i.e. any Disney movie. Like you are walking in right at the moment where the more minor characters of the story have decided to adulate the protagonist with all of their symphonic devotion. The protagonist here is always JOSH. His likeness and name are everywhere, pasted up and collaged all over like a Tiger Beat (shit it still exists) wall in your middle school bedroom.
These paintings are stuck. They are capturing the fantasized past from the perspective of the fantasized present. Yes they are ironic, but yes they are deadly serious. We have been taught to desire this sort of adulation, that this kind of celebration of one's self by others is the true barometer of real success in whatever one does. But alas- art rarely brings this to the artist. We think it will then it doesn't, or it does once you've stopped looking for it. Show me one Jeff Koons and I'll show you 5,000 artists that are just as good or better but never got recognition. Blah blah blah Its a crap shoot blah. Its like the art world has its own 1% and 99%. Blah the best way to deal with it is to forget about it and voraciously continue to make your art blah. Hey, Fuck em.
Ok tiny violins and sour grapes aside. I feel that these paintings by Josh really embody this sort of fantastical fantasy and dreamy disappointment in the practice of being an artist, in an imaginative way. They also touch on the subjects of family, upbringing, home, sex, fame, persona vs. real personality, and, strangely enough, the seasons. In person they strongly called to mind Inka Essenhigh. The kind of balance of fantasy caricature and darkness, oddness, and the uncanny. You don't know whether to chuckle or feel creeped out.
Cruel Summer, 2007 - 54 in x 44 in - Acrylic On Canvas
I particularly love the painting above, Cruel Summer. The gesture of it is so perfect. The image is so strange but so familiar. The young Josh is adored and worshiped by paint flinging buxom mother types. In a kind of typical Midwestern Summer image that is dear to me- a small wooden house against a flat endless field of some kind. Technically this painting really floored me. The surface is so even, and so easily flows between taped exactness and freehand, layered, Hudson River School paint. There is an illustrative aspect but it never goes too far, the painting always feels like painting.
Do You Hear What I Hear ? 2007 - 44 in x 54 in - Acrylic On Canvas
This one above so completely captures the feeling of Autumn in the Midwest. I love this painting, its so out of left field. It vacillates between an intense realism in the sky to an almost Charlie Brown flatness in the pumpkin patch. But its really working. Our hero Josh kneels in the middle of the patch alone, a sort of proud look on his face, as if posing for a basketball team portrait- which is probably what he was doing. Josh the painter uses old family photographs from his childhood as references. He re-contextualizes old photos of himself into scenarios he lifts from internet sources, magazines, etc. To look through the paintings , one can feel that Josh must have had the perfect childhood. But what is he still doing there? Why, as an adult, is he still in the pumpkin patch in Ohio? I ask my self similar questions every day in my studio. Why am I still stuck in a cornfield even though I live in New York? This painting resonates with me in a big way, very straight to the core. There is a flat jokiness which gives way to multi-layered seriousness. The title, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" says a lot. Its an old Christmas song yes, but thought about while looking at this painting it takes on a whole slew of new meanings. We don't hear Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin, we hear a kid's isolation.
The Number One Son, 2000 - 44 in x 54 in - Acrylic On Canvas
I really love the theater of the painting above. Its a sort of illustration of your 12 year old fantasy. You are on the team, you are throwing the ball, everyone is staring at you and counting on you to win the BIG GAME. Big breasted women in Kiss paint are watching you and getting off. Its all come down to this, you. A movie trope straight out of Teen Wolf. In actuality, the BIG GAME doesn't depend on you. You're there, you're in it, but if you weren't there it would still go on just fine. This is a hard reality you come to grips with as an adult. Here Josh puts his childhood small self in the middle of a grand scene, like the concert recreation of an Egyptian ceremonial hall. In the middle is Josh, a look of effortless, knowing swagger on his face. He stares straight at the viewer and says, "Yep,". As a viewer you know that this is a recreation of a fantasy, but you still wonder if Josh knows that this is a fantasy. There is a great tension in this. You're in on the uncomfortable joke, but you wonder, is the artist? I would say absolutely, but it's a hard ac to pull off in paint, and he's doing it.
I should note that all of these pieces are still works in progress. Josh is a perfectionist, and painting like this takes a while. Please check out Josh's site to view his video work and drawing, which meditate weirdly on the same sorts of themes. If you like what you see here please get in touch with Josh directly and set up a visit. He is a very nice, approachable guy and would love to have you over.
Josh Frosh 2005 - 8.5 in x 11 in - Pencil On Paper