Categorized | Reviews

Jimi Gleason @ Toomey Tourell

Ag 2s (gold) 2014, silver deposit, a/c on canvas, 32 x 28"

In Melting Point, the LA-based artist Jimi Gleason continues to expand on what Peter Frank, in a groundbreaking 2008 essay, called “Flow Painting.”  Frank coined the term to designate a group of mostly Southern California painters who balance chance and order in their investigations of paint’s material properties.  Frank focused mainly on the liquid qualities of paint, but those same properties, he noted, can also be used to evoke any number of states or sensations.  Within this subcategory of process painting, Gleason occupies a unique niche.  

Silver Deposit Paintings, a prior series shown here in 2011, gave off the look of glistening, post-apocalyptic landscapes.  The canvases were spectacularly charred, etched and imprinted and, in some cases, inflected with giant waveforms.  Though there are remnants of those features in Melting Point, it's the reflective silver/gold qualities of the grounds that dominate.  Roughed-up and grid-like, smoothed, and, in one notable instance, textured like glittering lamé, the works seem tailor-made for an oligarch’s den.  Alternately, certain works evince the surface texture of medieval tapestries laced with gold thread. Overall, what is evoked most strongly in this show is Modernist décor from the 1960s.  That is because each of these paintings contains, at its center, a slightly off-kilter diamond shape.  It’s executed in a variety of colors, patterns and finishes, echoing the Finish Fetish ethos imparted to Gleason by Larry Bell, a mentor who also favors eye-fooling mixtures ofpaint and industrial substances.  Here, as before, Gleason treats acrylic-coated canvases with chemical mixture which he sprays with a silver nitrate solution, electroplating the surfaces.  This metallurgic approach yields a variety of effects that the artist has been modulating for nearly a decade — effects that he likens to those that appear when fixing a photographic image in a darkroom.   
Ag cl (melt), 2014, a/c on canvas, 32 x 28"

Why he felt compelled to place a geometric form against his trademark surfaces is unclear.  But, if you set aside the bling factor and the historicizing effect of that particular shape there is an overarching appeal to these works.  It has to do with the blurry reflections cast by the surfaces and impossibility of bringing your own reflection into focus.  The question begged is, why is a mirror not a mirror?  As phenomenological queries go, it’s first-rate; you can dance around these paintings all day, reveling in their tinted, anamorphic effects, and still not find an image you can shave by.  That I admire.  It’s the diamonds I find distracting.  

Overall, my sense is that this body of work is transitional.  If so, where might it lead?  Ag Cl (melt) points to a promising direction.  It’s the most abstract and mysterious painting of the dozen on view.  Burying the diamond almost completely in metalized pigment, it affects the look of an almost-excavated artifact or the remains of an ancient city seen from a satellite.  My hope is that he'll create more like it in the future.  
Jimi Gleason: “Melting Point” @ Toomey Tourell through June 14, 2014.

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