Jay Schmidt is one of the more perplexing guys I’ve met, because he appears like a very clean cut, normal guy in his fifties (slacks and a dress shirt) – but there is something right under the surface that you can’t put your finger on. I am hesitant to say madness, but maybe what passes for madness in a consumer culture. Once you see his paintings it comes into focus, they present a parody of the world in a queasy wobbling, agitated, cartoonish iconography that lets you know exactly what he is thinking!
Mazzarella Thomas is a Belgian artist whose paintings look like screen shots of wacky video games, where the point of the game might be getting your characters to break down the door to a fancy building with people swimming on the roof, or to take a nap and then play super nintendo. I don’t know if this is a stoner or a dork aesthetic, but I like it either way. He describes his work as having a message “social and human.”
Jenna Gribbon’s paintings parse and reorganize images “not (into) natural spaces, or dream space, but waking brain space.” Psychologically loaded, I find it hard to figure out what is going on, but I can’t look away either. Jenna worked as an assistant to Jeff Koons, maybe laboring on some of his billboard sized photorealist paintings is where she got some of her chops.
Casey Jex Smith makes work which draws images sacred to high-geekdom, art, and religion together until they are inseparable. I have been into his work since seeing it in person at the Drawing Center a couple of years ago. Some of Smith’s influences are: Dungeons & Dragons manuals, Agnes Martin paintings, Mormon architecture, and Sunday School flannel-board cut-outs. Casey and his wife – who is also an artist, Amanda Michelle Smith, both teach high school art in CA.
When looking at Josh Podoll’s paintings they won’t give you anything to think about, and that is sort of the point. My eye gets caught in the air-brushed, optical illusion like, geometric patterns in a sort of empty, humming, awake way. Josh grew up in Fairfield Iowa – which is the former home of the Maharishi (of Beatles White Album fame) and one of the main centers for Transcendental Meditation in the US. He is in a show at Christopher Grimes Gallery in LA that opens January 16.
Gianna Commito makes paintings that feel almost sign-like – like a road sign warning you that the road has erupted and time is about to stop. The watercolor and gouache, or w.color and casein paintings don’t let you through the rabbit’s hole too quickly, but when given consideration they transform into tumultuous, imploding space scapes with virtuoso shifts in direction and scale. Using architectural source imagery allows the abstract paintings to have oddly real looking color and light shifts. In an interview Gianna compared the space in her paintings to origami or the inside of a tent. More paintings and a studio shot after the jump…