Max Jansons and Elizabeth Tremante 09.18.08
AUTHOR: MICOL HEBRON 09.05.08-10.11.08 Christopher Grimes Gallery
Max Jansons and Elizabeth Tremante engage in old-school, professional, formal pictorial practices. Both are involved in the irresistibly seductive exploration of the painterly details and lexica that define medium, process, composition, and representation. The paintings in Jansons’s exhibition, “Pleasure,” are built from treasured sources of custom-crafted furniture tacks, hand-ground pigments, and lead-paint-primed linen. His works, with their consistent palette of taupe, olive, sienna, and brown, evoke Giorgio Morandi’s practiced scrutiny of form, color, pattern, and objecthood. With an uncommon command of brush and pigment, Jansons paints small, graceful canvases that query the pivotal moments when abstract forms become objects and vice versa. As deceptively simple compositions, these dense works evince a profound knowledge of both painting history and painting technique. The quiet abstractions—a cartoonish houseplant, a modernist zigzag, a Swiss cross—have a timed-release impact, akin to the way a Zen teacher might smile calmly, sit back, and wait, with faith that the full beauty of the world will reveal itself to his student. These paintings elicit a very humanist concern and connote a smaller, more intimate and domestic view than the works in Jansons’s last show at the gallery, which conjured images of fantasy, the cosmos, and history.
The works in Tremante’s “I measure myself / Against a tall tree” also command a closer, slower form of looking and are likewise confident in the valor of their philosophy. These paintings examine the subtle and not-so-simple moments in the rural landscape that go unnoticed by cosmopolitan urbanites wary of dirt and weather. Tremante directs attention to beautiful instances of ugliness through a studied deconstruction of the traditional landscape, destabilizing and refocusing the viewer’s outward and inward gazes. Depth of field is shifted to refuse the Romantic, perspectival panorama and to focus instead on a mud puddle, resplendent with rainbow raindrops, or a gloriously polychromatic spiderweb. The artist makes such small moments reminders that the bigger picture is not always about bigger things.