Jamison Carter's sculptures: Like a carpenter's guide to the cosmos, or earthbound explosions of space
Jamison Carter’s new sculptures are like stage sets for splendor, together forming a Potemkin village of triumphal bliss. They happily expose their artifice, blowing a couple of fuses along the way. At Klowden Mann, three large works anchor an exhibition that also includes 20 drawings and several wall works. In form and composition, the wall works suggest studies for potential free-standing pieces.
The drawings are mostly dense accumulations of parallel lines in rainbows of colored pencil on black paper. Apparently rendered using a hard-edge ruler over raised templates, they harbor ghostly geometric flower-shapes within.
The large sculptures depart from Carter’s prior work by draining rainbow color, usually high-keyed, from the mix. What remains are assembled pieces of natural wood — here, lengthy shims and wedges — now glued together to form sunbursts and aureoles.
They’re like something Bernini designed to visually loft St. Peter’s throne high into ceremonial space, or they recall the spiky manifestation of holy radiance in Manuel de Arellano’s painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Except here the plug gets pulled on the supernatural, with all the gloppy glue and nuts and bolts exposed.
Dark wood stain applied in the center of three interlocking aureole forms gives one floor-sculpture the appearance of a giant bouquet of Van Gogh’s sunflowers — a symbol of happiness now bloated and earthbound. (It’s titled “Sunspot.”) Black polyurethane resin is deployed to make the other two sunbursts more like bomb blasts. A hole is torn in the center of these works, a repudiation of traditions of sculptural mass in favor of vaporized space. In the strongest work, half of the 9-foot-tall aureole apparently has been blown away, black resin flapping in shards out the back. Carter wields an appropriately double-edged sword — part staunch enthusiast of the spectacular pageant, part sober observer of the very human beings pumping the bellows behind the curtain.
Review of "A Cold War" at Klowden Mann by Anise Stevens for Artillery, 11.03.15
“A Cold War,” Jamison Carter’s current solo exhibition, and his second with Klowden Mann, revisits dichotomous themes introduced in his 2013 solo exhibition with the gallery, in which he explored the tensions that exist between man’s pervasive desire for advancement and the limitations of space-time. The artist resumes his ongoing material exploration with the disparate forms that appeared in his previous show: brightly colored, precisely drawn lines juxtaposed against black, amorphous shapes executed on paper, and sculptural planks, colored in neon hues and bundled together into nebulous forms made from painted plaster. O Superman (all works 2015), a 6-foot tall, coffin-shaped wooden structure occupies the center of the show. Carter’s meticulously drawn, vibrant lines cover the painting-cum-sculpture. The inescapable reference to abstract stripe painting is subverted by Carter as he reinterprets the genre. The “stripes” look instead like perfectly cut slices of solid pigment that have been glued together, reminiscent of works from the late 1990s when a number of Los Angeles-based artists were experimenting with paint as medium, isolated from its substrate, to produce layered, sculptural works. O Judge, spatially oriented as if in response to O Superman, sits huddled in a shapeless heap, resembling a black, meteor-like mass. The antithesis of O Superman, it symbolizes the organic world in its most basic manifestation. Viewers may question Carter’s choice to borrow the opening lines of Laurie Anderson’s 1981 recording “O Superman” to name these two works. However, by using a quote that references the opening lines of Massenett’s 1885 opera Le Cid, “Ô Souverain, Ô Juge, Ô Père,” Carter uses the allusion as a signifier to convey a resignation based on the cyclical nature of evolution, a reoccurring theme throughout the show.
Sol, the largest sculpture in this series, spans a 10-x-10 foot-space. The wall-mounted work best expresses Carter’s shift from a calculated and mechanical approach towards an application that is fluid and allows for chance. A composite of wood, hydrocal, paint, glue and hardware, Sol elaborates upon the topic of surrender, its materials chosen for their capacity to change with continued exposure to the elements. Two additional sculptures in “A Cold War” integrate wooden shards that, like Sol, provide a nod to the Baroque. Each work’s sun-like projections not only reference Bernini’s gilded rays from Ecstasy of St. Teresa, they also call to mind the formation of ideas set forth during the 17th century that conceptualized a new way of thinking about nature based on reason and the analysis of physical laws. The show’s remaining works emphasize Carter’s inclination to experiment with materials that encourage extemporaneous malleability. Of particular note are four framed monoprints that aggregate paint, hydrocal and dirt. Collectively, they exemplify Carter’s intrigue with process by setting up parameters that allow for undetermined outcomes. These, coming from an artist whose meticulous hand was a constant throughout his previous series, are not only compelling, but also reveal the transformative spirit that relinquishing control can impart.
An LA Artist Taps into the 1980s to Visit the Subject of Death by Bridget Gleeson for Artsy Editorial 10.06.15
In “A Cold War,” Jamison Carter’s new exhibition at Klowden Mann, there are numerous eye-catching works among the fluorescent-hued sunburst, Rorschach-like abstractions, and cement sculptures that seem to teeter on the edge of collapse. But it’s safe to say that Carter’s rainbow-striped coffin steals the show.
Titled O Superman (2015), the life-size coffin, hand-painted with bright stripes, references Laurie Anderson’s legendary 1981 song of the same name. For her piece, Anderson, an experimental performance artist and musician, took inspiration from the 1885 opera Le Cid by Jules Massenet, and the first lines of her half-sung, half-spoken song, “O Superman / O Judge / O Mom and Dad” echoes the first lines of Massenet’s aria. Carter, in turn, took inspiration from Anderson, naming the wooden coffin O Superman and another featured piece, O Judge (2015), a papier mâché sculpture that looks something like a charred carcass or a busted rubber tire on the side of the highway.
So what’s the connection between the French opera, the 1981 art-pop crossover hit song, and Carter’s provocative sculptures? The Le Cid aria is a prayer for help, while Anderson’s work is an exploration of interpersonal communication and a critique of human dependence on technology. Carter’s coffin, meanwhile, touches on all of these themes. O Superman is his expression of the idea that death is the ultimate equalizer—the sole force that grounds us, motivates us, challenges us, terrifies us. And it’s no coincidence that the coffin, at six-feet-three-inches tall, is the perfect size to fit the artist himself. It stands upright and lacks a lid though, suggesting Carter is playing with the compelling nature of death and our endless intrigue around its bounds.
“A Cold War” includes a handful of other freestanding sculptural works made predominantly of wood and hydrocal, including unlit and Mono Hum (both 2015); the former looks, dangerously, as if it’s about to topple over onto the gallery floor, while the latter, an almost absurdly top-heavy structure, features a boulder-like object balanced on a dainty and towering frame. Carter clearly likes to manipulate material and form, both here and in his wall-mounted sculptures, like the vibrantly painted sunburst Sol and the lunar-inspired Waning (both 2015). A quartet of monoprints, reminiscent of Rorschach inkblots, round out the exhibition. Although prints, they are not in fact ink, or even paint on paper: 67P/C-G view 3 (2015), like the other three, was made partly with cement and dirt, taking the familiar, enigmatic motifs out of their expected constraints. That’s Jamison Carter for you—ambitious, bright, experimental, referential, attention-grabbing, and ultimately uncategorizable.
Ellen Caldwell reviews Jamison Carter’s White Light from Dark Matter on New American Paintings 11.18.13
Jamison Carter’s solo show at Klowden Mann is explosive, inviting, and bright. Neon bright. White Light from Dark Matter is Carter’s first solo show at Klowden Mann and it features a variety of two- and three-dimensional works that interact and play off one another seamlessly throughout the gallery’s new Culver City location.
At an artist talk and conversation between gallerist Deb Klowden Mann and Carter, Carter explained that a phrase from a song “shards of light” had stuck with him and in this show, he aimed to make that notion tangible. And indeed he did. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Walking into the gallery, viewers are confronted with multi-tonal neon elements in a multiplicity of shapes and forms. Wooden sculptural works wind their way through the open floor space of the gallery, while two-dimensional works on paper are scattered on the walls. Both forms speak to one another, engage with each other, and further some sort of conversation, movement, and exchange between forms in a really special way.
Carter started with the smaller prints, using ink pens on paper, then he moved on to the wooden sculptures that are colored with the same inks, and then returned to the larger prints on paper. The fact that he uses the same exact inks and paints throughout, coupled with the fact that his process was so interactive between forms and mediums, really informs his show and the way viewers experience it. Often times I leave multi-modal shows that have mixed sculpture with painting, I am left with a slight feeling of disconnect. With Carter’s work though, the intrinsic relationship forged through his interactive and interconnected process comes through the work as if subliminally, uniting the show quite successfully.
My favorites were the pen and paint works on paper where, in his own words, he “investigated what this pen can do.” Quite literally, he explored the various widths and tips of these bright effervescent pens. From afar, I thought that his works were actually carved prints on paper, but in actuality the lines and shapes formed are strictly from straight lines drawn with various widths of pens.
One in particular, “The Sound That Fire Makes” really called to me. Bright neon lines are piled upon one another as if in a pyre climbing toward the sky or top of the paper. The overlap of colors and mix of opaqueness and sheerness on tones is really key here. At the bottom of the pyre, is a smaller pile of what looks like black stacks of wood. In this one work, viewers can get a feel for his entire show. The “shards of light” are quite keenly captured and materialized here. The black forms at the bottom are suggestive of all of the matte black paint and plaster he uses throughout his prints and sculptures, as if to offset the brightness from which the light exudes.
Something about this particular work, made me recall Erin Payne’s painted piles of fabric in which her multi-layered process of physically making the piles and then capturing them both on film and in paint materializes and archives her entire artistic process. In “The Sound That Fire Makes,” we see Carter’s work in a nutshell. It mimics and recalls the wooden pieces he used to build his radiating sculptures found throughout the gallery. And it simultaneously suggests, both visually through the illusion and verbally through the title’s allusion, a possible burning of these items, indicating and pinpointing the fleetingness of light itself.
Jamison Carter’s White Light from Dark Matter runs through December 7th. Carter was born in Winston Salem, North Carolina and received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2001. He teaches sculpture and three-dimensional design at Los Angeles Valley College, and has exhibited in California, New York, Chicago, Belgium, and Italy.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.