May 12, 2009

Jim Isermann's squareness

In ArtForum this month, Annie Buckley picks Jim Isermann’s elegant psychedelic paintings, which have graced the walls, floors, and ceilings of galleries, hotels, universities, stores, and museums over the past twenty-five years. "Using vinyl, plastic, linoleum, and—perhaps most memorably—a product called Put-in-Cups, Isermann culls and amplifies the basic principles of visual art: color, pattern, and design. Because of this, and the ease with which his fanciful geometries climb walls, adorn furniture, and span fences, his work is often understood as a fusion of art and design. Yet just when it would seem simplest to categorize or label the work as installation or design art, Isermann has turned to the elemental in another way, making paintings on canvas for the first time in twenty-two years.

"A recent exhibition, which includes four acrylic-on-canvas works and two drawings on graph paper, suggests a different way to look at Isermann’s work while posing a subtle challenge to the impetus to judge a work of art’s contemporary-ness by the nature of its form or materials. The four paintings on view are not novel, nor do they break down walls or charge ahead, but they are fresh, and—particularly in light of their eye-popping color and dimension-stretching matrices—surprisingly contemplative. Recalling ancient Greek architecture and Buddhist mandalas more readily than Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings or the subdued emotions of Agnes Martin’s grids, each of Isermann’s works is based on a system of squares within squares, which are stretched or condensed as the shapes make their way around the canvas and return to a square. Wholly self-contained, they seem to embody the beginning, middle, and end of an imaginary trip—whether roller-coaster ride or metaphysical journey—in one fell swoop."

"Jim Isermann," Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA. Through May 16.

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