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  • Provenance

    Anton Kern Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Anton Kern Gallery, Jonas Wood, 12 September - 19 October 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    'Head Up, the poker scene, has a drawing that looks almost exactly like the painting. It’s about half and half now. It’s good practice for it not to be the same way all the time'. (Jonas Wood in Emily Leisz Carr, 'Super Sports Fan: An Interview with Jonas Wood', Art in America Magazine, 9 October 2013, online).

    Testing our perception and understanding of reality, Wood’s highly stylised and sleek artistic production negotiates the delicate equilibrium between abstraction and figuration, offering instead an entirely alternative apparatus for painting. Masterfully incongruous, Wood’s naïve abstraction transforms the everyday and the mundane into a novel encounter that exists in the artist’s fanciful imagination. Within a plethora of portraits depicting NBA players, basketballs and tennis tournaments, Head Up, is an unparalleled rarity as one of the few paintings portraying poker players.

    Suspended within a vast expanse of silky black pigment, a dizzying array of patterns and mosaic-like forms accumulate and scatter across a vast expanse of canvas. Executed in 2013, a constellation of planetary arrangements orbit the upper region of Head Up, as psychedelic panels of fuchsia and azure contrast with a golden pixelated partition to set the intimate scene of the poker game. The dramatic lighting, advertising text and tension masterfully created throughout the composition indicates that the stage is set for a climatic showdown. The linear scene of interaction at the apex of the canvas grounds the composition, bringing a heady mix of suspenseful motifs and intoxicating perspectives into an arrangement of pictorial reality.

    Working almost exclusively from photographs and found material, Wood utilises a collage-cutting technique to re-organise reality, distorting recognisable imagery further into abstraction. Perhaps more unusually, the composition for the present work was taken directly from a screen shot on the artist’s laptop. As such, the present work offers a rigid and televised perspective, one that paradoxically positions the viewer as an observer and intruder, by both encroaching on the poker match as well as Wood’s own private viewing experience. Wood has noted, 'you could call [my work] 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' (Jonas Wood in conversation with Ana Vejzovic in Jonas Wood: Interiors, exh. cat., Anton Kern Gallery, New York (and travelling), 2011, p. 56). As such, Wood situates himself and the viewing experience at the heart of his pictorial inquiry.

    With his distinctive painterly style, Wood’s works engage directly with the traditional challenge of capturing the three-dimensional on the picture plane; Wood abstracts shapes by flattening and exaggerating forms, yet achieves the highest drama and depth in his stimulating canvasses. Echoes of Henri Rousseau and Henri Matisse are all discernible in Wood’s visually arresting and captivating aesthetic, as well as David Hockney, who is cited as one of Wood’s major influences. Painted the following year and analogous in subject and style, Hockney’s Card Players #1, 2014, heralds a revisited theme of card players, explored by the Old Masters, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Paul Cézanne. As a collective of sportsmen that remain motionless for long periods of time, Wood is provided with a dynamic yet sedentary subject matter for portraiture. That Wood’s unique approach to portraiture is heralded in major international collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, is a testament to the calibre of his artistic production and unique style.

  • Artist Biography

    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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Head Up

signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'JBRW "HEAD UP" 2013' on the reverse
oil and acrylic on canvas
226.1 x 266.7 cm (89 x 105 in.)
Painted in 2013.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £317,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017