Silent, decaying tributes Jordan West
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