August 1st, 2006 -- Fredric Koeppel
Jon Lee crams his brash and sophisticated abstracts with detail
"To say that Jon Lee's exhibition "Lee's Learning Center" at Jay Etkin Gallery is the best show in town now does it some disservice. When we sag under the Dog Star, galleries tend to mount group exhibitions or fall back on work that doesn't demand much of our heat-addled brains. This Show, however, would stand out at any time of year.
Lee, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Memphis College of Art, has filled Jay Etkin Gallery with tremendous energy, almost a furor of juice and jive, a rhythmic grafitti that's like a bootleg re-mix of
the Stones' "Honky-Tonk Woman" under Salt N Pepa's "Push It." The effect is entrancing and overwhelming.
The show consists of seven mixed-media-on-canvas paintings on the
south side of the gallery; and, on the north side, two huge installations of 10-by-10-by-2-inch square panels arranged in groups of 60 ("Create-a-wall") and 140 ("Great Wall of Boxes"). Each box -- 200 in all -- is marked, collaged, painted differently. The result is chaotic (though the arrangements are strictly ordered) and exhilarating and fun.
There's nothing reticent about Lee's wild, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to imagery and composition. Truly mixing media -- acrylic, oil and the grafitti-ist's aerosol, with hand-cut stencils -- the artist creates pieces that would seem as much at home illicitly painted on the side of a bus or truck as in a gallery.
Basically, these are spontaneous-seeming abstract paintings that incorporate in their sweep and swoosh and drip repeated visual themes -- a mountain goat, a tractor-trailer truck -- with a heavy use of letters and numerals in several styles, placed randomly (for the viewer) around the surfaces as if they were counters or map coordinates. Busy and crowded, the paintings feel dense with time, asserting and denying its effects simultaneously.
Particularly effective among the large pieces are "The anti_social v. 2.0" and "Why can't I park in the alley v. 2.0," both of which convey their brashness and tongue-in-cheek vitality with verve and odd sophistication. Also irresistible and a little poignant is "The learning_curve," in which what one assumes is the road to knowledge is hopelessly tangled.
The show's thematic anomaly is "Myspace stencils_72." For this striking piece, Lee took 72 faces posted to Myspace.com, made them into stencils and painted them over a complicated abstract background. People tend to put their best faces forward on Myspace -- "here's how I want the world to see me" -- yet drained of expression, flattened of perspective, the ranks of faces seem forlorn, sad and pathetic.
Within the 10-by-10-inch format of the boxes, Lee creates an amazing -- I'm resisting the desire to write "AWESOME!!!" -- world of image, incident and implied feeling. Since each surface offers a different picture, aside from a few similar abstract patterns, the time it takes to absorb "Great Wall of Boxes" and "Create-a-wall" could be considerable; one tends to graze and gaze rather than examine them in any kind of order. The key, of course, is that there is no order; what we learn at "Lee's Learning Center" is that intuition and randomness rule, that we are both masters and victims of time, that on the active surface of the painting, everything is permitted."
May 26th, 2006 ---Different places in the soul beckon in works at Jay Etkin Gallery...The juxtaposition of paintings by Pam Cobb, Glennray Tutor and Jay Etkin at Jay Etkin Gallery gives us the opportunity to ponder the uses of style and technique, even, if we want to get that serious, philosophies.
November 10th, 2005 ---A rare look at the objects from Elvis's lifeJay Etkin Gallery and E.A. Carmean, Jr. are pleased to present Jeff Scott, Recent Film Noir Photogravures.
May 11th, 2007
We are now finished with our renovated balcony level!