David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to present an online solo presentation of new paintings and works on paper by Jason Fox. The exhibition is presented in tandem with the debut Online Viewing Rooms at FIAC (Foire Internationale D'Art Contemporain), March 2 – 7, 2021.
If you are interested in purchasing the featured works or inquiring about additional works by Jason Fox, please click "INQUIRE" below to email our team. Jason Fox will be on view through March 7, 2021.
Fox will be in virtual conversation with The New Yorker staff writer Naomi Fry on Thursday, March 4 at 11 AM PT / 2 PM ET / 8 PM CET. Please register here to receive the discussion link.
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For nearly thirty years, Jason Fox has created distinctive, risk-taking paintings filled with imaginary beings informed by modernist art, autobiographical reflection, and mythological symbolism. In this new body of work, Fox continues his exploration of heads and busts, creating hybridized portraits that are at once satirical and introspective. He synthesizes figures from across the cultural spectrum—Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Alberto Giacometti, Barack Obama, Bob Marley, and the Grim Reaper—with less immediately recognizable motifs like stylized dragons or images of his own dog. These juxtapositions are both personal and formal in nature; wielding a sophisticated array of compositional and painterly techniques, Fox constructs cubist-inspired arrangements of color, plane, line, and texture whose abstraction moves them in the direction of unadorned visual experience.
If Fox’s work seems to be driven, upon first glance, by representational concerns, closer examination reveals an overriding interest in textural and optical effects. Several paintings in this presentation are defined by an atmospheric application of paint that can be read in association with staining approaches used by artists like Helen Frankenthaler, in whose work paint and canvas become one, emphasizing the flatness of the picture plane. In Fox’s case, these washes become fields on which further pencil and paint treatment press to the foreground. The yellow shapes and areas of red that characterize Jackie (2020), for instance, straddle the line between control and chance, with transparent layers of acrylic employed to create the characteristic fusion of figures prominent throughout this presentation. A red dragon is superimposed over a ghostly blue rendering of Joni Mitchell holding a prairie lily; the portrait is based on the cover of Mitchell’s 1969 album Clouds, but Fox always transforms the initial readings of his visual quotations, making their familiarity strange and their iconicity a springboard for self-reflection and formal invention.
This is not to say that the heretical, Dadaist spirit of Fox’s pairings does not shed light on collective conditions. But they do so in ways reminiscent of the lurid, contrarian depictions seen in Peter Saul’s paintings, which, like Fox’s, also trade in the domestic and the quotidian as they probe the crannies of public life. Fox and Saul alike have continued to turn to the head over the course of their careers, using this primary vessel of psychological information as an arena in which to experiment with seemingly incongruous forms and ideas. Social observation becomes inseparable from visual surprise.
In Green, Red & Blue (2021), for example, a painting based on Obama’s official photograph as president, the former statesman emerges from Bob Marley’s hazy, green shadow in an off-kilter vision of what it might look like if musicians ruled the White House.
At the same time, the wide-ranging, public-facing ramifications of Fox’s distorted brand of realism—not to mention the tendency toward abstraction that is a pervasive presence—are often balanced by the inclusion of motifs sourced from his own life. His dog, who makes recurring appearances in his recent work, exemplifies how an artist’s home and studio environment invariably seep into even the most ardently non-objective artmaking.
Paintings like Untitled (2020) and Howl (2020) feature renderings of the dog in states of metamorphosis, inhabiting the heads of other figures and introducing jarring shifts of plane and perspective. Parallels can be made to the work of the Bay Area figurative painter Joan Brown, who regularly depicted herself in the company of beloved animals, and incorporated personal and domestic imagery, including representations of her studio space.
For both artists, though, personal connections only take the work so far; the painting and its application ultimately tell the story, so that the work remains possessed by the dissolving—and life-giving—forces of abstraction.
Fox confronts the personal nature of painting head-on in You Think I’m Funny? (2020), a portrait of the artist adorned with an actual clown nose—a device that also characterized a number of his paintings from the mid-2000s—and rendered eyes looking off to the side, just barely avoiding the viewer’s return gaze. Composed using quick, deftly placed brush and pencil marks, the portrait also serves as an investigation into the effects of color, its expressive red functioning both as a modernist-inflected exercise in monochrome and a carrier of emotional charge.
Works like this demonstrate the flexibility and malleability made possible by addressing the human head and face as a series of discrete shapes and gestures. Throughout his recent paintings, mouths, noses, and eyes become places where Fox generates moments of stark geometry. Pushing the formal envelope invariably brings out hidden psychological features as well; some of the major narratives in twentieth century painting are concerned precisely with this dialectic, with Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon responsible for two of its most concentrated expressions. The hallowed, darkened perforations behind the masks of Picasso’s visages and the deftly choreographed, if intense, swirls that make up Bacon’s tender (and monstrous) portraits of his friend Isabel Rawsthorne are useful when thinking about the kinds of spaces opened up in and around the multi-dimensional heads Fox conjures into being.
Fox’s works on paper further exemplify the breadth and variety of his techniques and the many moods they engender. Each arises from a combination of improvisation and careful draughtmanship. Get Back (2020), for instance, is executed in grisaille on a monochrome black and grey background; ink washes and pencil lines constitute the foundation of a barely-there silhouette of George Harrison fused with a slack-jawed skull, creating an image of startling veracity in which one figure morphs into the other. Each gradation of hue informs those that surround it, resulting in a virtuoso study in transparency and opacity.
Like the paintings, the new drawings combine quick gestural marks, active brushwork, and broad washes of color. Often one color dominates, setting up serial relationships between hue and texture that differ from work to work. If each picture is a world unto itself—a condition the heterogeneous array of stylistic decisions would seem to indicate—it is also Fox’s felt response to the dizzying, chaotic, often arbitrarily wired worlds outside and inside the studio. In this respect, pigment and medium represent pure potential: physical forms in which heady legacies of painting and visual culture are metabolized as human—and animal—life.
Jason Fox (b. 1964, Yonkers, New York) has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at David Kordansky Gallery (2020); Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels (2018); and CANADA, New York (2017). Recent group exhibitions include Artists for New York, Hauser & Wirth, New York (2020); Samaritans, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, New York (2019); Animal Farm, Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2017); Rien faire et laisser rire, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels (2013); and Contemporary Surreal Drawings from Rotterdam, Collection Boijmans Van Beuningen, Institut Néerlandais, Paris (2012). Fox lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York.
To learn more about Jason Fox, please view these articles from The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, Artforum, and Art in America, as well as these catalogue texts by Hudson and Rachel Kushner.
Artwork photography by Adam Reich
Installation view: Jason Fox, May 26 – July 11, 2020, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, Photo by Jeff McLane
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