Gallery  February 21, 2022  Jordan Riefe

“Jonas Wood: Plants and Animals” at David Kordansky Gallery

Photography: Marten Elder, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, Patterned Interior with Mar Vista View, 2020. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 100 x 87 inches (254 x 221 cm).

Painted over the past three years, Plants and Animals, Jonas Wood’s current show at LA’s David Kordansky Gallery, features twenty-five new works that seem like snapshots of quarantine views from windows, isolated landscapes, and interior roomscapes, many with animals and some without. 

But these are not the surroundings of a housebound artist who's been staring at the same four walls for two years. Often, they’re not even real places but composites of elements culled from photographs, drawings, and collages. In some paintings, Wood combines family members with images sourced from the internet. Kiki with Leopard is a folksy depiction of a child seated with a contented feline on a bench. Behind them is an African plain littered with Acacia trees.

Photography: Marten Elder, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, Kiki with Leopard, 2020. Oil and acrylic on linen. 52 x 38 inches (132.1 x 96.5 cm).

A dog named Robot, Wood’s scrappy-looking terrier mix featured often in past works, died last year and is not among the canines seen here. Instead, most were found on Instagram. A trio accompanies his wife, artist Shio Kusaka, in Shio with Three Dogs, a composition dominated by a large mastiff with a shaggy mane. Nearby, hang three gouache, pencil, and ink studies.

Painted from a photo taken forty years ago by the artist’s father, C.M.Z. House on M.V. with Ptolemy features a 1970s style beach house atop a weed-covered dune in Martha’s Vineyard. In the foreground, the family cat Ptolemy sits in the pathway. 

Jonas Wood, C.M.Z. House on M.V. with Ptolemy, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 100 x 87 inches (254 x 221 cm).
Photography: Marten Elder, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, C.M.Z. House on M.V. with Ptolemy, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 100 x 87 inches (254 x 221 cm).

Jonas Wood Shio with Three Dogs, 2020 oil and acrylic on canvas 76 x 74 inches (193 x 188 cm) (Inv# JW 21.028) Photography: Marten Elder Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery
Photography: Marten Elder Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, Shio with Three Dogs, 2020. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 76 x 74 inches (193 x 188 cm).

Jonas Wood, Ravello, Italy
Photography: Marten Elder, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, Ravello, Italy, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 78 x 58 inches (198.1 x 147.3 cm).

Ravello, Italy was sourced from a photo sent to Wood ten years ago by his cousin who requested a watercolor reproduction to use for his wedding invitation. Patterned Interior with Mar Vista View, a view of Wood’s old house, includes nothing taken from real life except the potted plant in the foreground. The riotous colors of the curtain, its pine needle motif meticulously laid out in singular brushstrokes, complement the chaotic pattern on the sofa, each painstakingly applied with a thousand little lines.

In other works a veneer of spots, wood grains, and finishes are similarly employed, making these large-scale still lifes a study in pattern making. Wood’s process suggests patience and a dedication to craft, much like the drawings of Vincent Van Gogh in their regard for mark-making or, more recently, Ed Moses, whose graphite works from the 1960s and ‘70s are composed of an endless series of lines. 

Photography: Marten Elder Courtesy, of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, Palms and Inglewood View, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 70 x 40 inches (177.8 x 101.6 cm).

Raised in Boston, Wood found inspiration early in his grandfather’s art collection, featuring works by modern masters like Jim Dine, Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell, Larry Rivers, Alexander Calder, and Andy Warhol. After receiving his MFA from the University of Washington, he moved to Los Angeles in 2002. There, he received real-world training while working for two years as assistant to painter Laura Owens and another two for sculptor Matt Johnson.

Photography: Marten Elder, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jonas Wood, BBall Studio, 2021. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 110 x 104 inches (279.4 x 264.2 cm).

His first solo exhibition was in 2006 at an LA gallery called Black Dragon Society. A year later, New York’s Anton Kern Gallery mounted a solo show of his works based on a tip from artist Mark Grotjahn. Wood’s public commissions include murals for New York’s High Line and for the façades of LAXART and MOCA. His use of flat bright colors has many critics placing him with one foot in the Pop Art tradition and the other foot, based on his subject matter, in the realm of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. 

“Using local color is just a tool, like perspective,” Wood said in a 2010 interview with LA's Hammer Museum, promoting his first solo museum show. “When color challenges you, and tells you a plant is blue not green, then maybe color can ask you new questions about what you are seeing.”

About the Author

Jordan Riefe

Jordan Riefe has been covering the film business since the late 90s for outlets like Reuters, THR.com, and The Wrap. He wrote a movie that was produced in China in 2007. Riefe currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, LA Weekly and KCET Artbound.

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