Jason McLean: Soda Gardner
Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles
January 17 - February 28, 2015
By SHANA NYS DAMBROT, JAN. 2015
There is a lot going on in the big city. And because it’s about life in the big city, there is a lot going on in Jason McLean’s art. There’s a lot of stuff in it, too -- like, besides the entanglements of cartographic, diaristic images and writings, actual things, foreign objects. And an installation of it is a fairly madcap affair involving mixed media collage, assemblage, arrangements, and organizations and a kaleidoscopic array of found and original images, found and crafted objects, embellishments, textures, scratches, papers, photographs, unhinged doors, papier-mache, flea market frames, and historical ephemera. He also makes zines, mail art, and sound works.
From major works like “Fascinating Life Stories of Famous People” which are executed on full-size wooden door panels and contain xeroxes, found letters, postcards, as well as work in paint and ink; to a hilarious and smartly juvenile series of altered pro-sports trading cards; to an elaborate assortment of eccentric objects laid out like some kind of loot or hall of fame display; to the many smaller framed works that read partly like studies for the bigger pieces yet are remarkably self-contained as sweetheart image objects -- all of McLean’s works demonstrate a strong instinct for the visual puns and unexpected patterns that present themselves on a regular basis in the world around us. The combination of obsessiveness bordering on the neurotic with an obvious joy taken in the process is disarming and infectious. The rhythm of the work is more absorbed than discerned, it makes sense he’d also work in sound, because an understanding of the work accumulates into clarity at its own pace. Sort of like Los Angeles -- the city that inspired the majority of the newest work, although McLean lives in Brooklyn.
The saturation, density and unconventionality of the materials that greets visitors entering his exhibition at Wilding Cran gives an initial impression of an outsider savant -- some kind of hybrid of an urban, street-informed sensibility merged with a folkish, self-taught urgency. A little Basquiat, a little Steadman, a little Terry Allen (especially with all the baseball imagery), a kind of technicolor Pettibon, and a vaguely Eastern European way of handling expressive line-drawing and text as both story and graphic elements. As far as content, he deftly merges personal and observed experiences, particularly tied to time and place. He is influenced by -- no, he actively courts the influence of -- his environments, even as certain transcendent memories of, say, baseball games endure. For this reason, his works are often seen as a kind of allegorical mapping project, one that simultaneously charts his progress through the world, through art history, and through his own private life. And -- just like with a complicated, detailed map -- what first seems overwhelming eventually settles into legible, helpful, detail the more time one spends roaming across its surface and diving in closer at one’s leisure, when something catches the eye’s attention. They are full of surprises. WM
PICK OF THE WEEK ARTILLERY MAGAZINE
Wilding Cran Gallery
by Eve Wood ·
January 29, 2015 · in Pick of the Week, Reviews
First of all, soda and gardeners don’t usually go together; that’s not to say that all gardeners must abstain from soda or that soda doesn’t sometimes yearn for the garden, but it’s an unlikely alliance, yet Jason McLean’s exhibition at Wilding Cran is a playful and witty gestural experience, one wherein neither the soda nor the gardener make an appearance, yet one thing is very clear—that the artist is having the time of his life. The strongest work in the show is a strangely engaging drawing entitled I Don’t Own An Alarm Clock, and one can assume from the title that the artist has thrown over all manner of self-regulation, opting instead for pure unadulterated fun.