Jason Martin Counterfeits Labor, Makes Enlightenment Look Easy

Jason Martin, "Pangea" (2015), mixed media on aluminum (243.8 x 203.2 x 19.1 cm)

Jason Martin: Counterfeit
LA Louver, April 13 - May 14


LA Louver Gallery’s solo show by British gestural abstractionist, Jason Martin, Counterfeit, is a collection of Martin’s most recent paintings; large-scale canvases (or, sail cloths) that epitomize the levity and labor of the world around us. In Counterfeit, Martin seeks not to merely replicate the natural environment but embody it. The paintings were created outside, allowing for an element of climatic chance to shape each finished piece. The show marks a break from Martin’s traditionally monochromatic palette and a shift toward the unpredictable, employing unconventional modes of mark making, at times allowing the will of the weather to lay the finishing touches. What Martin reveals through the works presented in Counterfeit is a series of binaries: man-made vs. naturally-formed, controlled vs. unpredicted, effort vs. grace, and the realization that one cannot exist without the other, in the service of the whole.

"Dolomie" (2015), mixed media on aluminum (203.8 x 245.7 x 20.3 cm)

Pairing sculpture with painting, Martin has effectively created works that one can’t help but get right up next to. Nose-to-drip with the cloth-covered aluminum panels, part of the work’s appeal comes in the (almost uncomfortably) close examination of it; look inside the cracks to see what other colors lie beneath the surface, try to feel the hardened sprayed-on color with your eyes. The heavily-applied paste medium in Dolomie—positioned in a smaller gallery space just off of the main drag—looks like the the tragedy of a cake set to rest for hours in the sun; the drips of paint, suspended from the edge of the aluminum sheet are nothing if not precarious. In a nuanced blend of pastel blue, lavender and yellow tones, the Dolomie palette, like that of the majority of the works in Counterfeit, lends an ethereal quality to the painting. Its airiness is juxtaposed with the weight of the materials and media used to make the work, as well as the effort with which Martin dragged his fingers through the mounds of applied paste to make his mark. That is one of the things most striking about these works; how Martin manages to make something that looks labored—pulled, stretched, raked—look graceful, fluid.

Left to right: "Jolla" (2015), mixed media on plexi (101.6 x 76.2 x 11.4 cm); "Dolomie" (2015), mixed media on aluminum (203.8 x 245.7 x 20.3 cm)

In Estonian and Finnish languages Raha means money. The Islamic name Raha translates as peaceful, or liberated. The two definitions couldn’t be farther from one another. In the first, the proclaimed origin of evil, in the second, the sense experience of enlightenment. Martin’s Raha, one of the few nearly-monochromatic pieces in the show, depicts a leisure not afforded to many of the other canvases (or, sail cloths). Light pink hues swirl across the surface. Unlike the beleaguered marks present in the other works, the ones in Raha look, well, easy. The artist’s hand is evident, but the gesture here is subtler; fewer finger marks, less effortful pushing of the medium from one side of the frame to the other, the drips of paint are reigned in. In Raha, there is order.

"Raha" (2016), mixed media on aluminum (204.5 x 184.2 x 17.8 cm)

The first painting seen upon entering LA Louver is Pangea, named for the Paleozoic supercontinent from which our world as we now know it was formed (or rather, deformed). In Pangea, we see evidence of the sail cloth left untreated (or at least left alone by Martin, it’s hard to say what the sun and rain may have done to it). Here, Martin very clearly positions raw against manipulated, man-made against nature-made. Pangea is a confluence of opposing forces that work together to form a single unit. In the depiction of these grand binaries, Martin conveys the seemingly dichotomous nature of the world at large, and the realization that the existence of one polarity depends on the presence of the other, and that each are nothing but the whole they form.

Leah Schlackman

Leah Schlackman is a Los Angeles based writer and editor. 

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