Si­lent, de­cay­ing tributes Jor­dan West

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews -

There are places we take for granted, such as pub­lic re­strooms, strip malls, and air­port bag­gage­claim ar­eas, per­haps never re­ally ap­pre­ci­at­ing how much we rely on them. Th­ese places be­come sub­jects for Jor­dan West. Other places such as aban­doned gas sta­tions, empty lots, and build­ings fallen into dis­use also find their way in­toWest’s art.

Some would rather shield their eyes from man­made struc­tures that dis­tract from the fic­tion of the pris­tine land­scape and bring us back to a re­al­ity with which we would rather not con­tend. Bet­ter to see the moun­tains far off in the dis­tance than to fo­cus on the run-down gas pump.

West seems in­ter­ested in the his­tory or life of such struc­tures. He is also in­ter­ested in a struc­ture’s in­evitable death. This is the sense with which he cre­ated a se­ries of gouache works on pa­per called GoW­est Young Man, ex­am­ples of which can be seen by ap­point­ment at Launch Projects. The se­ries de­picts gas sta­tions that are no longer func­tional and empty build­ings— stores per­haps— and empty lots as sen­tinels on the Amer­i­can land­scape: si­lent, des­o­late, and part­way along their jour­neys of de­cay. “In the GoW­est se­ries, I was drawn to the ab­ject rather than the ro­man­tic,” West said. “A lot of those struc­tures were aban­doned, maybe in the last re­ces­sion. We are per­haps go­ing to be see­ing more of th­ese.”

In terms of land­scape paint­ing, there is a marked dis­tinc­tion be­tween whatWest paints and what many other artists choose as their sub­jects. Though land­scape in its more nat­u­ral guise with trees and moun­tains is un­de­ni­ably present in some of his work, it is not his fo­cus. “I’m choos­ing a cer­tain level to chron­i­cle,” said West. “I’m not chron­i­cling the suc­cesses. There is enough glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of our present con­di­tion in the me­dia.”

West is a re­cip­i­ent of a Pol­lack-Krasner Foun­da­tion grant for the 2008-2009 fis­cal year. The grant is awarded to pro­fes­sional artists in recog­ni­tion of their merit and is based on fi­nan­cial need; large awards are given with the idea that the funds will sup­port a work­ing artist for the com­ing year. Launch Projects rep­re­sents two re­cent award re­cip­i­ents; the other is Eric Tilling­hast. Al­though more than 100 awards were given out in the last cy­cle, the award rec­og­nizes artists on an in­ter­na­tional scale, and the ap­pli­ca­tion process is long and in­volved, tak­ing any­where from nine months to a year.

A paint­ing called Dou­ble Hap­pi­ness, also on view at Launch Projects, ap­pears more tech­ni­cally com­plex than those in the Go West se­ries. This paint­ing presents a dou­ble im­age of an ur­ban land­scape whose parts come to­gether in a dizzy­ing ab­strac­tion. To read the paint­ing ar­chi­tec­turally, due to the pre­ci­sion of the line de­tails, is to see it only on a sur­face level. “It ad­dresses ar­chi­tec­ture only in a sense,” West said. “More specif­i­cally, it ad­dresses the man­made en­vi­ron­ment we live in.” As with his pre­vi­ous work, Dou­ble Hap­pi­ness is empty of all peo­ple, but it is ul­ti­mately about them. “The way I ap­proach this is by chron­i­cling so­ci­ety, not crit­i­ciz­ing it,” he said. “The hu­man pres­ence still re­mains when they leave.”

Jor­dan West: Dou­ble Hap­pi­ness, 2008-2009, oil on can­vas, 48 x 48 inches; top, Go West Young Man #1, 2004, oil on panel, 26 x 48 inches

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