Jonas Wood (b. 1977)
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Jonas Wood (b. 1977)

Hammer 5

Details
Jonas Wood (b. 1977)
Hammer 5
initialled twice, dated twice and titled 'JBRW 2010 HAMMER 5 JBRW 2010' (on the reverse)
oil and acrylic on linen
90 x 114in. (228.6 x 289.6cm.)
Painted in 2010
Provenance
Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

Executed in 2010, and acquired by the present owner shortly afterwards, Jonas Wood’s monumental Hammer 5 belongs to a series of paintings depicting his pivotal first solo museum exhibition. Fusing together three of his most important subjects – interiors, still-life and his own autobiography – it captures the essential matrix of his oeuvre at a critical moment in his career. The exhibition itself, held earlier that same year at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, focused on a single body of work: namely, a series of bright, geometric still-life creations entitled ‘New Plants’. Neither wholly abstract or figurative, these paintings marked an important chapter in Wood’s practice, referencing the work of artists such as Alexander Calder and Henri Matisse. Stretching nearly three metres in width, Hammer 5 offers a near-life-size rendering of three such works hung on the gallery walls, inviting the viewer into an enigmatic meta-world. Subtly altering the exhibition’s original curation, the artist infuses the painting with a characteristically uncanny sense of displacement. Wood, who grew up surrounded by art, is fascinated by the idea of visual memory. Throughout his practice, he uses chromatic, formal and spatial distortions to capture the fractured mechanics of looking back on the past. Many of his works feature domestic settings recalled from his childhood, punctuated with ghostly depictions of objects and artworks he encountered during those years. In the Hammer series, Wood’s own practice takes centre stage, itself saturated with art-historical memories. Such cyclical complexities are typical of his oeuvre, and are eloquently showcased in the present work.

Much like the older artist David Hockney, with whose work his has been compared, Wood plays shrewd perceptual games with depicted reality and the flat actuality of the canvas. In isolation, the broad, grey planes of Hammer 5’s gallery walls and floor might be read as a Minimalist composition; echoed in the flat chromatic zones and sharp shadows of the hanging paintings, their blank geometry dances between an impression of architectural space and the baldly stated surface of the painting itself. The work’s nested layers of illusion create a compelling instability, highlighting the artifice inherent in picture-making. For all its conceptual cool, however, Wood’s subject matter is always part of a deeply personal ecosystem. ‘I’m not going to paint something that doesn’t have anything to do with me’, he has said. ‘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. Why did van Gogh pick that landscape? It’s because it was the perfect landscape’ (J. Wood in conversation with A. Vejzovic Sharp, Interiors: Jonas Wood, exh. cat., David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 56). Bringing together the ‘hyperpersonal’ and the openness of public display, Hammer 5 sees Wood’s self-referential practice at its most urbane and intimate.

The ‘New Plants’ themselves offered some of the clearest statements of Wood’s art-historical positioning. Begun in 2009, they combine the character of his own still-life and interior paintings with the language of Modernist abstraction that influenced him as a child. ‘My grandfather collected a lot of art in a short period, for not even twenty years in the 1960s and ’70s’, he explains, ‘so I grew up surrounded by this art: Warhol, Bacon, Motherwell, Jim Dine, Larry Rivers, Calder’ (J. Wood in conversation with A. V. Sharp, 9 November 2011, in Jonas Wood: Interiors, exh. cat., Anton Kern Gallery, New York, 2012, p. 56). While the paintings depicted in the present work display an obvious debt to the latter’s mobiles, with their leaf-like profusion of abstract forms, they also acknowledge Wood’s long-standing fascination with the work of Matisse. The flat, sinuous planes of his cut-outs – exemplified in works such as Snow Flowers, 1951 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) – are explicitly conjured in the ‘New Plants’. Curator Corrina Peipon, meanwhile, draws comparison with the work of Milton Avery, citing both artists’ use of simplified forms and flat brushwork (C. Peipon, quoted at https://hammer.ucla.edu/exhibitions/2010/hammer-projects-jonas-wood/ [accessed 20 August 2019]). Created during his early rise to acclaim, these works helped to establish Wood’s reputation as an artist keenly aware of his ancestry. The present work takes this claim one stage further: in the act of painting his own paintings, he makes a case for his own place in the canon.

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