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'Tiptoe Hassle' by Jan Gatewood at Smart Objects, Los Angeles

Culled from an idiosyncratic artistic alphabet, animals, vehicles, and fruits are rendered in soft-focused finger-smudged oil drawings floating in acidic color-washed environments. In a reconfiguration of the status of ‘works on paper’ as preparatory, surface-level sketches, Gatewood utilizes the paper’s absorbency to fuze mediums with pools and splashes of fabric-dye alchemized with bleach, salt, or lemon juice to mutate or diffuse colors and patterns within the stained paper. Self-referential formal decisions deliberately scramble the registers of mediums and techniques to arrive at a singular sensibility that speaks through the familiar codes of drawing and painting to parody them.

While anthropomorphized, Gatewood’s subjects resist symbolic weight in favor of functioning as vessels through which to speak. Without tethering referents frogs, dogs, lemons, helicopters, strawberries, fish, and cars — nonhuman representations of flows of life — create the parameters of a language from which to sample and remix in an unmediated game of illustrating the process of expression itself. The resulting excess is a fever dream of absurdities that are multiple, interconnected, and self-replicating.

In this malleable hallucinatory space flora, fauna, and modes of transit are introduced and then left to grapple with human concepts such as numbers, drawing, and failure. In other cases the lifeforms are only partial, or conjoined — a bisected dog adorned with strawberry stitches or a helicopter fish inhabiting a lemon for a body — assemblages of parts search to resolve the organism. Likewise, the production process is a continual conjunction of fragmentary objects that promise libidinal flow in their ability to reconfigure new and different iterations, otherwise gridlocked as a constituted whole.

Offering hints to unlock the work's internal logic are enlarged manifestos paired with a self-portrait throughout the exhibition as a primary text and conceptual map. Moreover, Gatewood’s titles read as bullet points to this manifesto; reflective provocations on the possibility harnessed to create them. Concerned with the project of activating potential by way of conjunction and elliptical repetition, sense and nonsense play out and are recorded on the works’ surface. By prioritizing continual transformation, change, movement, and flux, Tiptoe Hassle relinquishes a fixed symbolic order in favor of multiple becomings that affirm the positivity of difference. 

18.2.22 — 2.4.22

Smart Objects


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