On view this month at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, artist and former dealer Joel Mesler has. brought a selection of new paintings and works on paper forward for his first solo show at the gallery. Playful and engaging, the works make for an expressive entry in the artist’s work.
Mesler’s work draws frequently on childhood memories, using them to fuel meditations on class, design, and popular iconography, allowing the artist to using his images to delve into notions of acceptance and emotional honesty. It also finds him broadening his visual range, incorporating new motifs in the patterned backgrounds that provide the foundation for each composition and experimenting with new, increasingly elaborate ways of rendering typography. Sharp juxtapositions of language and image allow phrases to float into view, resembling fluids like milk or condiments. In Untitled (Surrender), elements from “Snakes and Ladders” and “Candyland”—board games whose images are imprinted upon the psyches of many children—have been recombined to create a document that is surreal and sanguine, menacing and self-effacing, sad and hilarious.
The images possess a sense of intimacy, an impression that invites reflections on joy and childhood, journeys of self-awareness, and a new language built from these varied symbols and images. Many of the backgrounds against which Mesler’s phrases appear are suffused with autobiographical import as well, evoking key, often traumatic, moments from his past.
A group of works on paper constitute another important facet of the exhibition. Playful and exploratory, with jokey punchlines and sophisticated combinations of color and texture, each has been executed on a David Kordansky Gallery exhibition poster from the early 2000s. This choice of support creates a bridge between various moments in time and maps the artist’s own internal dialogue onto a public record of artmaking. The capsule history of the gallery, however obscured and redacted by virtue of Mesler’s marks and swaths of color, roots his painterly ruminations in the place where they are being shown. Furthermore, it provides a ground upon which he can directly address his journey as both an artist and a dealer—not to mention his formative years in Los Angeles—and the trials and triumphs that have made the last two decades an unlikely story of personal and professional homecoming.
Engaging with this expansive personal mythology and the artist’s own exploration of the world that both raised him and helped him find his voice as an artist, the show is an intriguing new entry in artist’s work and life. It closes March 6th.
– D. Creahan
David Kordansky [Exhibition]