February 15, 2006

Joel Mesler, Opening

I was going title this blogpost: "Joel Mesler, Painter." I had a second and third thought about it. He's had a rich history since coming to ChinaTown several years ago. He has operated a gallery, an art printing house, a music studio, written movies, publisher of the Rambler... am I missing anything? But Joel has always been a painter, it is his primary identity. When I met him years ago as he was settling a gallery into the building he had bought, he exhuberantly told me: "This is going to be a painter's gallery!" I remember cringing... not because there is anything wrong with doing this (I now flash the painter's salute: a sharply executed left fist to the head, and say: "P is painting!" -try it, it's fun), but that despite the enforced proscription against painting and for the greener pastures of new genre art forms in my late 80's graduate art school experience, I've come to believe that the horse would graze best unharnessed to the pasture whose grass we believe is greener. If it is indeed greenest, the horse will eat there anyway.

After curating a few great painting shows, Joel made the turn toward the expanded field with the installation of Jean Young's Happy Lion Gift Store. Jean was our landlady who was retiring her store and Joel suggested a direct translation of the contents of her store lock stock and barrel into his gallery. Her final inventory would be for sale while the appropriation would complete the Duschampian blessing as art. It was a great success with apprciative reviews to prove it, and what followed was a string of adventures into an artworld unneccessarily tethered to painting.

But he's a painter after all. I remember him saying that hs didn't want to make artwork that depended on a sales pitch story to support it. He knew he needed to burrow into the studio and incubate an initial body of work. Last October, in he went. This show is his coming art party... and he was/is a little nervous about it.

Which is natural. Openings are nerve racking anyway.

Bart Exposito is a generous man. He offered a one day, one wall, one shot opening so Joel can show this, his first public body of paintings. Social lubricant, food and drink flowed. Bart did the honors.

First, let's see the show:

The guys caled me over the day before as they were installing the show. Too many choices abounded, could I cut through the tangle? I sat down and asked Joel: "What were you imagining the show could look like? You must have held a mental image of it. What is the animating idea about your work? We once taked about how some paintings were different according to how many shots of Jamenson were taken. Do you want to organize it by sobriety? Did you want to edit by only showing a part of the whole body?" And so on.

Who was Joel Mesler?

And could he tell me?

I trotted out the metaphor of the diver and the dubloons, about how diffficult life is and how perhaps we can persist despite the clouds of mud that cloud our view. I was riffing at the edge of incoherence/inaity, but I kept it under control.

In what direction were those dubloons before the confusion hit?

As you can see, I suffer from acute earnestness.

In came Roger Herman, notorious pirate painter of ChinaTown, if not LA. He's been here for a lifetime and his German accent is still strong: "Oh, you must certainly hang them in this way, very tight salon!" He was the bull who assembled the china shop.

And it was good.

Joel didn't want me to publish a singular image of any particular painting. The one above of David Kordansky is the exception. He didn't want to be corraled by others, much less by himself -hamstrung by any particular identity as a painter.

I had an argument against this, but I held off, respecting his wishes. People will able to see them soon enough.

Details were ok, though:

People and groups os people; a perspectival natural /dreamworld albeit twisted; hands of G-d flying from off frame; G-d as firmanent floating aloft; besotted folk, perpetrators and passersbyes; injuries and blessings... stuff of-but-not-from the old testament Torah.

"It looks like..." I projected the blocky thugs afflicting Lara Croft in the early version of that computer game. People were rendered in crude facets so that something like a face would be reduced to image planes.

Joel smiled and replied that it was not his intention at all... but that it was simply the best he could do even if it was simplistic. Of course. Doesn't it always come to this? And shouldn't art be qualified by its' capacity to be filled by the imagination of others?

We start out crudely and gain sophisitcation, but as we groove deeper into higher levels, don't we tend to long for the first moments when approach and technique is wide open and free form? Don't we all expect that if "a child could do that", then wouldn't it be wonderful to paint as free as a child even in our senior years?

The names float to the surface:






Posted by Dennis at February 15, 2006 12:20 PM

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