Acquired from the above by the present owner
Gray Room is in many ways archetypal of Wood’s Interiors series, featuring a number of his trademark motifs and stylistic idiosyncrasies: the surfaces are littered with ceramic pots and vases – the work of Shio Kusaka, his ceramicist wife and studio partner; a painting leans against the wall on the left, whilst one of Wood’s own paintings hangs from the right. In our appreciation of these details, we are reminded of Wood’s working method, which involves taking source material not only from photographs, but also from his own works, both finished and unfinished. Wood even takes inspiration from the works in his personal collection, if not by treating them as direct source material, then certainly by reacting to the atmosphere that their presence engenders: “I love living with really good art… I like the electro-magnetic vibe that comes from great art; it gives me energy and makes me excited about making stuff” (Jonas Wood cited in: Jennifer Samet, ‘Beer with a Painter, LA Edition: Jonas Wood’, Hyperallergic, September 2015, online). This notion of atmosphere is important for the Interiors series, which was conceived in response to spaces of great emotional import to the artist: “The Interiors began as reflections on the spaces I grew up in… my grandparents’ and parents’ homes were very aesthetic places, packed with images and objects. It all seeped into me. These are the space that inspired me to become an artist, and so they were a natural choice for subject matter” (Jonas Wood cited in: Dan Nadel, Ed., op. cit., p. 56).
Gray Room sums up the way that Wood relies on art historical precedent, both modern and contemporary, in the creation of his works. The warped sense of perspective and considered use of pattern on the left-hand side certainly reminds us of Henri Matisse – one of this artist’s most important influences – who employed similar compositional devices in his fauvist interiors. Meanwhile, the distorted furniture, which seems to twist and bulge, supporting Kusaka’s vases at apparently precarious angles, can be read as a deferential nod to Picasso’s cubist period. Elsewhere, in the inclusion of such a prominently placed chair, one cannot help but think of Vincent van Gogh – the aforementioned master who shared Wood’s predilection for subject matter of personal significance. We can also think of more contemporary practitioners – certainly David Hockney, whose works have perennially toyed with perspectival recession and depth in a similar manner, as well as Alex Katz, whose interiors are similarly built up using flat blocks of unmodulated colour, and who has often favoured a comparably matte surface texture. In Wood’s own words: “I love David Hockney and Alex Katz, who are looking at modern painting and riffing on that. I’m looking at what they are looking at, but I also get to look at them” (Jonas Wood cited in: Jennifer Samet, op.cit.).
For its captivating perspectival flatness, lavish patterns, selection of idiosyncratic ceramics, and pointed references to art history, Gray Room should be considered amongst the upper echelons of Wood’s Interior series. In its interpretation, we are reminded of Roberta Smith’s judgement on this artist: “More than ever his works negotiate an uneasy truce among the abstract, the representational, the photographic… Mr Wood paints the artist’s life that happens to be his own. In its broadest outlines the subject has not changed all that much from, say, Vuillard and Matisse to Alex Katz and David Hockney” (Roberta Smith, ‘Art in Review: Jonas Wood’, The New York Times, 18 March 2011, online).
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