I have had a deep emotional connection to most of the places I select to paint. That is going to come across. There is a personal nostalgia I can feed off. Everyone wants to go back to his or her youth in some way, be naive, and be a kid again. I know there are powerful emotions, and I use that as fuel.
Untitled (Cat Poster) from 2011 is a prime example of Jonas Wood's celebrated paintings of quotidian contemporary American life, which masterfully dissemble the canonic concepts of abstraction and figuration. Straddling three of the artist's principal concerns – interiors of deeply personal locations, a prolonged engagement with art history, and a fascination with domestic animals – the visually complex Untitled (Cat Poster) draws these themes to a succinct conclusion. In the present work, Wood fragments the canvas into a multidimensional space fractioned by walls, window panes, a mounted canvas, a mirror, and the titular cat poster. With the exception of the wall with the mirror, all objects are rendered in straight-on perspective; but in spite of the flattened chromatic planes, a compelling depth of perspective is emphasized via stylized layering of off-kilter geometric structures. Disorienting yet quietly riveting, the composition harnesses Wood's distinctive trope of flattened spatial distortion, functioning as an extraordinary matrix in understanding Wood's distinctive creative process and provides an unparalleled insight into his greater visual world.
Over the past ten years, Wood has developed an entirely singular aesthetic. Drawing upon a vast archive of painted and photographic sources, the artist reinterprets banal scenes anew. In a manner reminiscent of David Hockney's large collages and paintings – not only in terms of facture but also regarding Hockney's interest in painting his own studio, his saturation of colour and his distortion of perspective – Wood takes photographs of his subjects from a variety of angles, cutting and pasting them into endlessly fractured, flat studies, which are further refined and perfected through drawings and etchings. Such a methodology also echoes that of Matisse's cut-outs in the last decade of the Modernist master's life. Wood explains his own process: "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, blurring the line between reality and fiction, real and imagined space.
Describing the impetus to work within the confines of 'flatness' Wood explains: "I chose to paint in this flat way because it suits me to simplify things. Even when I use shadow it's flat – abstracted. There is depth, but it's achieved in the simplest way" (Jonas Wood in conversation with Ana Vejzovic in: Exh. Cat., New York, Anton Kern Gallery, (and travelling), Jonas Wood: Interiors, 2011, p. 56). Endlessly engaging and perpetually revealing, Untitled (Cat Poster) further offers a fascinating insight into the space that Wood physically inhabits – as though a mirror held up to the artist himself – and the very mechanisms and inspirations that drive his dynamic oeuvre. Speaking of his inspiration to paint personal spaces, Wood expands: "you could call it a visual diary or even a personal history. I'm not going to paint something that doesn't have anything to do with me. Of all the possible things I could paint, the thing that interests me is something that I can get close enough to paint it honestly. The painters whose work means the most to me – that's what they were painting. It was their love to me. Why did van Gogh pick that landscape? It's because it was the perfect landscape" (Ibid).
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" (Roberta Smith, "Paintings by Jonas Wood", New York Times, March 2011). Oscillating between representation and geometric abstraction, balancing at the nuanced threshold at which figure disintegrates into pattern and colour, the present work is in line with the very best of Wood's oeuvre. Rising to critical acclaim in recent years with solo exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and Anton Kern Gallery, New York, Wood's work is included in seminal international collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.