Just a mile and a half from Smashbox Studios, on La Cienega Boulevard in Culver City, CA, plants line the street. But instead of the jasmine shrubs or palm trees that line other Los Angeles streets, these plants are large-scale paintings by the artist Jonas Wood. The plants—a zebra cactus and other succulents in ceramic vessels with Appaloosa-like markings—are excerpts from Wood’s previous works, re-purposed in this mural much in the same way a plant cutting can be transplanted into a new garden. “So there’s a way that all these images are sharing visual language and passing through my work,” Wood explained in an interview with Art in America magazine.
Wood started painting plants in 2002, after he received his MFA from the University of Washington, as a way to paint from life. Soon after, Wood moved to L.A., where he was inspired by the abundance of plant life around him, particularly the succulents. Plants started to appear more and more in his work, along with domestic interiors, televised sports and portraits of family members. “He paints what is around him in daily life,” Linda Yablonsky wrote in the New York Times Style Magazine, “and tries to preserve the beauty he sees in these spaces and share it with the viewer.”
Wood had his first solo exhibition in L.A. in 2006, followed by an exhibition at Anton Kern in New York in 2007. From then on, he continued to have regular exhibitions, and became known for his representational style that combines realistic figuration with modernist abstraction, flattening and skewing the images in his work just enough to disorient the viewer.
Of his work, The New Yorker wrote, “Wood’s tilted pictorial flattening, in oil and acrylic on large canvases, connects the dots from Henri Matisse to Stuart Davis to David Hockney in ostensibly figurative scenes of interiors—a hypnotist’s office, a child’s bedroom, a sun porch—that play optical games with abstraction.” Wood has also drawn comparisons to artists such as Grant Wood and Edward Hopper.
In 2010, Wood had his first museum show at the Hammer Museum in L.A. “I was initially attracted to Jonas’s paintings because I found them to be deeply felt, closely observed scenes from everyday life that immediately appealed to me,” said Corrina Peipon, who curated the show. “As I got to know him and his work, it became clear to me that Jonas puts everything he has into his practice. It’s lucky for us that he does.”
This past weekend at David Kordansky Gallery, just a few miles past the mural on La Cienega, Wood unveiled his latest exhibition. The largest and most diverse presentation of the artist’s work to date, the exhibition consists of three rooms that each focus on a different subject: plants, sports cards or portraits. The plant paintings differ from his previous work, in that each plant is presented alone, with a landscape painted in the shape of the pot (think cityscapes and overgrown jungles). “Compositing images of objects, perspectival spaces and external surfaces, as well as textures, scales, and temporalities, the pots exemplify Wood’s montage-based practice, and its evocation of nostalgia and the uncanny,” wrote the gallery.
The exhibition opened on Saturday, November 8, and will on view till January 10, 2015.