Michael and Leslie

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  • Provenance

    Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago
    Private Collection
    Robert Blumenthal Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Christie’s, London, February 12, 2015, lot 140
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Chicago, Shane Campbell Gallery, Jonas Wood, October 12 – November 23, 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    Michael and Leslie, 2013, is a prime example of Jonas Wood’s vibrant and textured interior scenes. His use of multiple perspectives and off-key colors articulate a wholly unique vision of the human experience that is simultaneously embellished and genuine. In the present work, Wood’s subjects sit adjacent on a sofa making eye contact with the viewer. Their domestic space is rendered in stylized strokes to emphasize a depth of perspective that is grounded in observation, but simplified to pattern. The flattened chromatic planes bear resemblance to Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, while the painterly surface reflects the influence of Vincent Van Gogh’s highly textured still-lifes. Throughout his practice, Wood has consistently referred to the paintings of his pop and modern predecessors, creating a body of work that is uniquely rooted in tradition with a contemporary voice.

    Each of Wood’s large-scale paintings including the present work is based on handmade collages of the artist’s own photographs. After jig-sawing his imagery together into a single arrangement, Wood then reworks the composition through a series of drawings used to plan out the canvas. “I look to drawing first. I’ll take a picture of the painting and print it out on drawing paper, get the colored pencils and try to figure some shit out. I’m less of a de Kooning and more like Lichtenstein so it’s a compositional decision, I guess” (Jonas Wood, quoted in Bill Powers, “A Talk with Jonas Wood”, Artnews, January 6, 2015, online). The artist’s use of drawing to work out the formal qualities of his final compositions lends itself to the collage-like disjunction of his domestic paintings, the result of which resembles a new form of Op art that is as much flat as it is visually stimulating. This is evident in Michael and Leslie, in which Wood’s portrait subjects appear to be super-imposed onto a pre-existing background. A lampshade to the left of Michael appears to be on the same plane as the figure himself, while the fabric weave of the couch beneath Leslie extends outwards rather than recedes inwards, challenging the relationship of foreground and background.

    In using his own source imagery, Wood’s interiors, landscapes and portraits are also informed by his own recollections. While the artist would have most certainly photographed his subjects prior to painting the present work, Wood was likely also relying on his own memories of them. Central figures in the Los Angeles art scene to which Wood belongs, Leslie Ross-Robertson and her partner Michael Ned Holte are friends of Wood: fellow artist Ross-Robertson owns a contemporary design studio, while Holte is an independent curator, writer and professor at California Institute of Arts. Wood renders Holte and Ross-Robertson with recognizable features, such as Holte’s long red hair with clear-rimmed glasses, yet keeps their surroundings largely non-specific. The result is a depiction of what appears to be a traditional home life that recalls the banality of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, whose couple subjects also gaze at the viewer straight-on, while infusing it with something oddly familiar. As David Pagel described of Wood’s most successful double portraits, “from the hobbyist pastime, Wood’s oils and acrylics on linen or canvas borrow charm, earnestness, steady, one-step-at-a-time craftsmanship and just the right touch of hokey sentimentality…Wood’s best paintings…make every day spaces and the ordinary things in them look better than ever, as if the rooms themselves were in good moods, and those moods were infectious” (David Pagel, “Review: Jonas Wood upends the everyday at David Kordansky”, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2012, online).

    Jonas Wood’s exploration of the human figure in portraiture has dominated his prolific practice. Indeed, the artist’s first solo exhibition in 2006 held at Black Dragon Society, a gallery in Manhattan’s Chinatown known for representing figurative painters, mostly featured portraits of his own friends. Since then, Wood has continued to paint people depicted in various settings including domestic interiors such as the present work, sports arenas and artist’s studios. A collection of these portraits were most recently the subject of his fifth solo exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, New York in 2016, which were called “oddly refreshing; they offer a subtle corrective to idealized renderings of the human form” (Carey Dunne, “The Staged Beauty of the Awkward Family Photo”, Hyperallergic, October 12, 2016, online). In an age dominated by media distortion, Wood’s portraits offer an alternative for their emphasis on more realistic depictions of the figure, focusing on individualities that convey a unique level of truth. With an undergraduate degree in psychology, Wood has always been preoccupied with the nuances of human interaction, which explains why portraiture continues to reappear again and again in the artist’s oeuvre. Wood’s paintings are a reminder of the beauty of ordinary life, transforming spaces from his own world into ones that appeal to his viewers through familiarity: “I’m interested in exploring the spaces that I’ve inhabited and the psychological impact they’ve had on me and my memories of them. And then I can create a new memory of that space” (Jonas Wood, quoted in Rebecca Bates, “Jonas Wood at Anton Kern Gallery”, Architectural Digest, August 31, 2013, online).

  • Artist Bio

    Jonas Wood

    American • 1977

    Boston-born, Los Angeles-based artist Jonas Wood is best known for his colorful, semi-abstract interior scenes and still-lifes. Both in style and subject matter, Wood evokes the work of his predecessors Henri Matisse, Alex Katz and David Hockney. The artist is known to produce paintings, prints, collages and even sculptures with the help of his wife, ceramicist Shio Kusaka. 

    One of Wood’s more distinctive motifs is his repeated use of flattened vase-like forms, often featuring self-contained narratives against a more neutral background. The artist received his MFA from the University of Washington in 2002, and his work can be found in the collections of major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney and the Guggenheim.

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Ο30

Michael and Leslie

signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated “MICHAEL AND LESLIE JBRW 2013” on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
63 x 64 in. (160 x 162.6 cm.)
Painted in 2013.

Estimate
$450,000 - 550,000 

sold for $580,500

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278
aloiacono@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2018