of the new paintings in Jimi Gleason’s show Linked by Light are strictly monochromatic, but at first glance most of them seem to be. They appear to be dominated by a single color — green, blue, gold, or silver. But try shifting your position and moving around them: not only do these colors change, the hues deepening or lightening, they change dramatically; pearly whites fade into lavender and blue, and golds fade into green.
The illusory effects of the pearlescent acrylics that Gleason uses in his paintings may be what first captures the eye, but more is going on in the paintings in terms of composition and technique.
One of the most striking aspects is their luminosity, which evokes a sense of light-filled space. The centers of Gleason’s paintings are ghostly and ephemeral, their seeming lack of substance contradicted by the way they are made: with multiple layers of paint, in different colors, spread smoothly over the surface with knives. “My paintings encourage light,” Gleason told Pasatiempo. “Take a light-filled center and blended pearlescent colors. The emotions in my paintings are not represented solely by either but implied by the combination of the two. The power of these paintings comes from the inside out, not the outside in.”
Gleason, who lives and works in California, spent time working as a photo assistant in New York, where he became interested in the chemical reactions that occur in developing Polaroid film. “I was intrigued by how Polaroid chemicals pool around the edges,” said Gleason, who wanted to capture a similar effect using paint. “That was the beginning of my evolution as a painter.”
Gleason was trained as a printmaker at the San Francisco Art Institute in the mid-1980s. There he learned lithography, a printmaking process that involves treating limestone surfaces or anodized aluminum plates with polymers that repel water and absorb grease-based inks. Fusing processes that are inherent to photographic development and printmaking, Gleason has created a body of work that references these other techniques without being too specific or adopting the mediums familiar to them. No emulsion or grease or ink is used in them; it’s all done with paint.
In Vaulted, one of the paintings in the show, which opens Friday, Feb. 19, at LewAllen Galleries at the Railyard, one can see the darker edges that frame the composition and how the built-up layers of the lighter colors stand out from the darker pigments. The pooling colors at the edges lend the composition a dense border that frames the center, like a window opening into luminous space. Another painting, Untitled (Yellow/Blue), is like a triptych— a vertical band of blue set between two bands of gold. Each panel has its own frame, and all three frames are attached, unlike most triptychs, in which each component hangs separately. The treatment of the paint, down to the striped pattern created by dragging the paint across the surface, is uniform in all three sections. “The whole underbody has continuity,” said Gleason. “I’m trying to fracture the plane just by color. I’m trying to push the plane but keep the continuity.”
Another triptych, called RogueWave, is an example of a different kind of painting style than that represented in Gleason’s pearlescent paintings. Each panel of RogueWave, two gray and one blue, is uniform in color, and the texture created by the application of the paint lends each a more solid appearance than a more opalescent painting like Vaulted, with its smooth surface. The striated pattern
in a painting titled Aqua-Trac is more defined than the patterns in Rogue Wave, but both of these denser paintings seem to be more about surface texture and its reflective or absorptive qualities with regard to light. In Vaulted, by contrast, as in Untitled (Yellow/Blue), the surface appears to emit its own light.
Another solid-colored piece, called Chrome, has a mirrorlike surface that subverts whatever image it might reflect due to the folds and layers in the paint. Though it may belong more to the second type of painting in Gleason’s show, the more monochromatic Chrome bridges the divide between these paintings and the pearlescent ones, still incorporating light as a necessary element for its full effect. This makes for what is sure to be a balanced show. Even the solid-color paintings deepen or lighten in color, depending on the angle from which they are viewed. In Linked by Light, paint itself conveys a sense of mystery and emotion through the application of the artist’s technique rather than by his relying on representative imagery.
The complex interactions of light, color, and texture that Gleason brings to his work challenges the notion that this is minimalist art. The paintings are not easily dismissed as pure trickery, because so much depends on the balance between the interiors and exteriors of each painting or between two distinct series of paintings. They are, according to the artist, “a visual riddle, a frozen moment. They are images that contain a certain spirit, something very deep and felt — based on reality although paralleled with mystery.” ◀
Valley of Neptune,
2010, acrylic on canvas, 86 x 48 inches
Luminous Value, 2009, acrylic on canvas on panel, 26 x 26 inches