Currently the subject of his first major museum retrospective organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, Jonas Wood has made a name for himself through his mastery of abstract space, evocative use of color, and his connection to the lineage of California painters and European art history alike. Approaching subjects that run the gamut from sports to domestic interiors to the serene quiet of a garden retreat, Wood transforms the everyday into a dialogue on color and spatial abstraction. Japanese Garden 3 is a striking example of the artist’s ability to infuse a seemingly simple subject with visual intrigue and dynamic presence. Roberta Smith, speaking about his practice, noted, “Jonas Wood’s painting continues to mature impressively, gaining pictorial and psychological weight. 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, “Paintings by Jonas Wood,” New York Times, March 17, 2011). Each brushstroke, field of color and visual element is meticulously applied to the painting’s surface until they coalesce into a vibrant whole.
Japanese Garden 3 is being sold to create and fund a future National Park and will conserve one of the wettest tropical forests in the Americas. Art to Acres, an artist-directed initiative partnering with Christie’s, is guiding this art and conservation project. The sale of the painting will leverage matching funds totaling 400% from Global Wildlife Conservation and Rainforest Trust. These funds will go 100% to land conservation and the protection of Earth’s biodiversity. Conserving intact tropical forests is one of the leading ways to maintain the planet’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow down climate change. This painting of about 60 square feet will conserve approximately 600,000 acres, twice the size of greater Los Angeles, where the artist’s studio is located. Art and conservation go hand-in-hand as both engage legacy and permanence, existing to benefit future generations. By engaging decisive action from an artistic platform toward land conservation, Art to Acres reaches a broad audience and has a powerful impact on this critical cause.
The third painting in a series he began in 2017, Wood’s Japanese Garden 3 expands on his interest in leafy expanses, low masonry and calm waters. Known for his stark interiors festooned with potted plants, hanging baskets and other domesticated foliage, Wood takes a step outside the confines of his home to portray the outside world. However, true to form, the artist has chosen only the most orderly and carefully-curated of outdoor locales by taking the immaculately tended traditional gardens of Japan as his subject. Inundated with masses of green and blue, Japanese Garden 3 exists in several overlapping layers that bring together a patchwork of flattened forms and intricate brushwork. A broad-leafed tree in the foreground extends from the bottom edge of the canvas only to be intersected by blue waters meticulously composed of small ovoids and billowing, cloudy forms. Through the water, a stylized wall of gray brick leads the eye back to shore where a verdant spectrum of grasses grows. Shrubs and small trees in various hues of emerald and forest green provide a focal point in the midground and serve to balance the darker top portion with the blue of the water. At the top of the canvas, more leafy trees in deep green extend upward into a darkening forest hemmed in by what one can assume is the garden’s outer wall. The entire scene is devoid of figures, but the walls and peering out of this manicured landscape attest to a gentle but decisive hand at work.
Though often portrayed as one of the more audacious young artists working today, Wood has a breadth of art historical knowledge and respect for previous artists’s accomplishments that shows through in his continually evolving oeuvre. Growing up, he was continually exposed to art by his family. Reminiscing about this early influence Wood remarks, “Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Calder, Monet, Vuillard, Bonnard, van Gogh, Stuart Davis, and Hockney have all been very real influences to me. When I was a young child, my family would speak about these artists as examples of greatness in painting. I guess even then I took them seriously because these are the artists I ended up fashioning my studio practice after” (J. Wood, quoted in E. Tovey, “Jonas Wood,” Dossier Journal, April 3, 2012). It is exceedingly evident the influence these artists have had on his work as works like Japanese Garden 3 exhibit a new take on the manipulated space of Cubism and the flatness of Matisse’s and Calder’s shapes in paint and tin, respectively. However, one of the more direct references within Wood’s career have been to paintings by David Hockney. Like his British predecessor’s iconic works, Wood draws influence from the California landscape (both interior and exterior), and employs the same sort of compelling juxtapositions that give both his and Hockney’s work their confident but uneasy sense of space. “Wood says he and Hockney [share] an interest in combining multiple perspectives, using patterns to create space, and examining how color ‘can be irrational and rational at the same time.’ As Wood puts it: ‘Hockney veers into the extreme abstract, but still holds onto the thread of representation. He’s always pushed the boundaries as a representational painter. That’s why I’m drawn to him—because of this constant invention’” (S. Roffino, “Hockney’s Children: 5 Artists on Why They’re so Indebted to the Charming British Painter,” artnet News, December 1, 2017). Building upon Hockney’s abstraction, Wood nevertheless sets himself apart by embracing crisp edges and an eschewal of traditional models of illusionistic space. Instead, the artist creates scenes where each object, element and shape is afforded nearly equal importance, resulting in a painting that rewards extended viewing to the utmost.