Rising to international acclaim over the past decade, Jonas Wood is a master of executing bold and colorful compositions on a monumental scale. Two Tables with Floral Pattern, 2013, is a prime example of Wood’s interest in the legacy of the still life, while exploring the imagery of his daily life, the result is a bold new arrangement that is unparalleled in contemporary painting. Writing in The New York Times, critic Roberta Smith notes, “More than ever his works negotiate an uneasy truce among the abstract, the representational, the photographic and the just plain weird. They achieve this with a dour yet lavish palette, tactile but implacably workmanlike surfaces and a subtly perturbed sense of space in which seemingly flattened planes and shapes undergo shifts in tone and angle that continually declare their constructed, considered, carefully wrought artifice" (R. Smith, "Art in Review: Jonas Wood," New York Times, March 18, 2011). With an eye for composition that combines bold silhouettes with irresistible detail, Wood produces paintings packed with layers of visual interest.
Of all the possible things I could paint, the thing that interests me is something that I can get close enough to in order to paint it honestly. The painters whose work means the most to me – that’s what they were painting. It was their loved ones or the stuff that was in their house. It was always this hyperpersonal thing to me.”
Arranged against a soft light-filled background, a forest of houseplants rises from various pots, and vases. Some sit in basic terracotta containers while others sprout from elaborately patterned ceramics. Two tables in the background, seemingly composed of dark, raw wood, hold nearly a dozen leafy denizens while the remainder rest on a blue carpet resplendent with the floral pattern noted in the work’s title. One pot in particular, a white and black speckled vessel with a flowering green and pink bromeliad protruding from the opening, rests on a cardboard box marked “STUDIO, etc”. Below this, the blue text of the bygone Kinko’s logo peeks, naming this pedestal as a repurposed copy paper box that has seen many uses in its simple life. These intimate compositions speak to the artist’s interest in the history of art as well as the complacency of the everyday. “Of all the possible things I could paint, the thing that interests me is something that I can get close enough to in order to paint it honestly. The painters whose work means the most to me—that’s what they were painting. It was their loved ones or the stuff that was in their house. It was always this hyperpersonal thing to me” (J. Wood, quoted in D. Nadel, Jonas Wood: Interiors, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 56). Though they occupy the area between abstraction and figuration, Wood’s compositions represent real things in real spaces. Many of the ceramics he paints exist in his house. His wife, noted artist Shio Kusaka, is a constant source of inspiration for the painter, and her ceramic work figures prominently in many of his canvases.
Wood’s paintings are carefully and intentionally constructed images. In order to arrive at his final composition, Wood builds up the painterly layers like an architect (his father designed buildings), often beginning with a photograph of compositional forms that capture his attention and then creating a collage from multiple photographs, before producing a drawing of this new configuration. Next he paints in the background, before focusing his attention on the foreground elements in exacting detail, making final adjustments as he does so. As well as formal concerns, he also adds nods to art history. “My grandfather collected a lot of art in a short period, for not even twenty years in the 1960s and ‘70s”, Wood explained, “…my grandparents’ and parents’ homes were very aesthetic places, packed with images and objects. It all seeped into me” (J. Wood, in conversation with A. V. Sharp, November 9, 2011, in ibid., p. 56). The artist is equally inspired by still-life arrangements in his home as he is by the paintings of Matisse’s studio. The faux-woodgrain of the titular tables in Two Tables with Floral Pattern is reminiscent of Cubist collage and trompe l’oeil, while the graphic sensibilities of each leaf would be equally at home in the jungles of Rousseau.
The nuanced combinations of patterns, shapes, colors, and subjects have become Wood’s own personal iconography, but he is always looking to improve his ability to maintain balance and visual intrigue in his work. Carefully planned, and expertly constructed, “I’m less of a de Kooning and more like Lichtenstein,” the artist maintains (J. Wood, quoted in B. Powers, “‘I’m Less of a de Kooning and More Like Lichtenstein’: A Talk with Jonas Wood”, ARTnews, January 6, 2015). Though the collection of pots and plants may look random at first, Two Tables with Floral Pattern is a methodically-plotted composition that uses simple objects to chart a course through layers of influence.
Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).