Lot 1059
  • 1059

JONAS WOOD | Yellow Orchid with Cup and Book

1,200,000 - 1,600,000 HKD
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  • Jonas Wood
  • Yellow Orchid with Cup and Book
  • oil and acrylic on linen
  • 86.3 by 66 cm; 34 by 26 in.
initialed, titled and dated 2013 on the reverse


Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

Lives of the Artists
Jonas Wood

Of all the possible things I could paint, the thing that interests me is something that I can get close enough to in order to paint it honestly. The painters whose work means the most to me – that’s what they were painting. It was their loved ones or the stuff that was in their house. It was always this hyperpersonal thing to me. – Jonas Wood

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. – Jonas Wood

Intimate in scale, tender in motif yet powerfully arresting, Yellow Orchid with Cup and Book is an exquisite specimen from the artist’s acclaimed oeuvre that features the beautiful ceramic pottery of his wife, Japanese ceramicist Shio Kusaka. The striking clipped orchid, rendered in Wood’s iconic skewed and flattened perspective, is potted in a minimalist ceramic vessel situated on a richly patterned tablecloth, while a neighbouring cup sits atop a book with “Van Gogh” incised on the spine. Still Life with Coffee and Van Gogh Book executed in the same year and also featuring Kusaka’s pottery and a Van Gogh book, was featured in “Jonas Wood & Shio Kusaka: Still Life with Pots”, the first two-person exhibition of the Los Angeles-based artist couple in 2013. Whereas Wood usually paints “the artist’s life that happens to be his own”, continuing the trope of Vuillard, Matisse, Alex Katz and David Hockney (Roberta Smith, “Paintings by Jonas Wood”, The New York Times, March 2011, n.p.), the present work encompasses the lives of not one but multiple artists: Wood himself, his wife Kusaka, Vincent van Gogh as well as all the great legends in art history.

Wood grew up in Boston and graduated with a BA in Psychology in upstate New York with a minor in studio art. He then moved to Seattle to pursue his MFA in painting and drawing. It was there that he met his wife Kusaka, who was studying ceramics, and the two moved to Los Angeles in 2003. The two have shared the same studio space since that year: Kusaka creates idiosyncratic pots influenced by Japanese earthenware, which are collected by Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman and graced the Whitney Biennial in 2014, while Wood’s vibrant portraits and still lifes are inspired by his daily life and immediate surroundings. The recently concluded exhibition “Shio Kusaka & Jonas Wood” at the Museum Voorlinden in the Netherlands once again paid tribute to the two fast-rising stars, whose careers are “increasingly […] intertwining, with their home and studio each functioning as incubator and catalyst” (Margaret Wappler, “Inside the Home of Two of L.A.’s Fastest Rising Artists”, Elle, November 2014).

Over the past decade and a half Wood has carved out his own distinctive and critically lauded aesthetic that is embedded in a rich network of art-historical reference. His painterly style is a playful yet rigorous interrogation of the traditional representational challenge of capturing three-dimensional forms on the flat picture plane; by flattening shapes and exaggerating forms, he achieves gently unsettling yet highly stimulating canvases. The influence of Cubism is palpable in his work’s conflation of multiple perspectives, while his focus on the quotidian as well as the cheerful gaiety of his palette invokes the language of Pop Art, recalling in particular David Hockney’s domesticated landscapes and gardens. Wood has said: “Hockney was a big, big influence on me. He has that Renaissance ability to paint from life but he’s also an inventor,” says Wood. “But I love Picasso and Braque and Matisse and Vuillard. . . . And the thing about Hockney or Alex Katz or Lucian Freud or any of those people that I’m super into, they were into those modern painters, too. So I get to look at Matisse or Picasso through their work” (cited in Meredith Mendelsohn, “Jonas Wood--Mural”, Gagosian, 22 May 2017, n.p.).

The present work in particular is powerfully evocative of Matisse’s cut-outs, such as Danseuse Creole (1951), not only in motif but in its inducing of a ruptured sensory experience. The stripes of Kusaka’s pots invoke Matisse’s groundbreaking use of pattern to add structure to an image, while Wood’s methodology also echoes that of the Modernist master. In the last decade of Matisse’s life, the artist began cutting up gouache-painted paper into a wide range of shapes and re-arranging them into new compositions. Wood’s approach is similar: working from a personal archive of photographs and found imagery, he makes preliminary sketches and studies of his subjects and creates initial collages by cutting and pasting. The images are then filtered through various layers of drawing until he arrives at his final composition. Wood explains: “I’ll take a picture of the painting and print it out on drawing paper, get the coloured pencils and try to figure [it] out. I’m less of a de Kooning and more like Lichtenstein so it’s a compositional decision” (cited in Bill Powers, “A Talk With Jonas Wood”, ArtNews, January 2015). The fragmentary method is in essence a synthesized perception of time and space; as a result, the final works throb with a vibrant rhythm and whimsical harmony.

As Roberta Smith asserts: “More than ever his works negotiate an uneasy truce among the abstract, the representational, the photographic […] Each painting presents a highly personal but impersonally observed reality” (Ibid.). Oscillating between representational still-life and abstraction, balancing at the nuanced threshold at which representation disintegrates into sheer pattern of form and colour, the present work is in line with the very best of Wood’s oeuvre. The final touch to this exquisitely personal masterwork lies in Wood’s inscribing of Van Gogh’s name on the spine of the book – a masterful tribute to the Post-Impressionist legend. Van Gogh’s Oleanders, a still life of life-affirming oleanders painted during his most productive period in Arles in August 1888, similarly features a book: Émile Zola's novel La joie de vivre (“The Joy of Living”). The present lot pays homage to Van Gogh’s motif and composition as well as the very mode of life he represents: the life of the artist, i.e. a life of passion and devotion to the beauty of the everyday.