JOEL MESLER (B. 1974)
JOEL MESLER (B. 1974)
JOEL MESLER (B. 1974)
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JOEL MESLER (B. 1974)

Untitled (Early Bird)

Details
JOEL MESLER (B. 1974)
Untitled (Early Bird)
signed, dated and inscribed ‘The Estate of Joel Mesler, Joel Mesler 2019’ (on the overlap)
acrylic on linen
65 x 60in. (165.2 x 127.2cm.)
Painted in 2019
Provenance
Curatorial Services, New York (acquired directly from the artist).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

With its snaking graphic letters emblazoned upon a tropical coloured background, Untitled (Early Bird) is a vibrant example of Joel Mesler’s distinctive word paintings. Redolent of the punchy text-based works of artists such as Ed Ruscha and Christopher Wool, close inspection reveals that each letter is formed from brightly-coloured worms, invoking the well-known saying ‘the early bird catches the worm’. In the background, Mesler’s signature leaf patterns are imposed like cut-outs on a glowing orange colour field, conjuring the botanical worlds of Matisse and Rousseau. The motif itself, however, has a somewhat different origin, inspired by the famous Martinique wallpaper at the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, where Mesler spent time as a child during his parents’ complex divorce. Combining wit and humour with poignant flashes of his own autobiography, works such as the present filter painful memories through a colourful ’80s-inspired Pop vernacular, their iconographic slogans charged with private, oblique poetry.

Mesler vividly remembers the day his parents’ marriage broke down, over brunch at the Beverley Hills Hotel’s Polo Bar. Mesler was eleven years old at the time, and the hotel’s distinctive banana-leaf décor—synonymous for many with the heyday of Southern Californian style—would forever remind him of that time. More recently, however, his work has focused on ideas of acceptance, replacing the ill-fated hotel wallpaper with memories of the jungle prints in his childhood bedroom, where his parents would kiss him goodnight before going out for the evening. ‘Their parting words to me, “Honey, you deserve great things” and “The world is yours,” and the animals in my wallpaper would meet with the furs of my mother’s jackets, the colours of their clothes and the smells of their perfume and cologne’, he recalls (J. Mesler, quoted in press release for Joel Mesler: In the Beginning, Lévy Gorvy, Hong Kong 2021). Indeed, the present work’s text ultimately alludes to a message of hope, positivity and ambition, suspended against the colours of a flaming Californian sunset.
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