Friday, November 20, 2009

Jim Houser at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

There's an expression when it comes to buying a piece of art: "living with the piece" - in other words, how will the buyer feel with the artwork in his home, office, etc. It's not necessarily about the size, color, and "will it match my decor?" issues. It may be in part, but for many collectors it's about "Will I still feel as jazzed about it when I get it home as I do now? and what about after a week or two? Is this just a reactionary buzz, or will it continue to stimulate me and make me love looking at it over and over?"
At the moment, all I have of Jim Houser's work is the promo poster for his show a few years ago at Jonathan Levine Gallery hanging on my wall, and the reason it's still up is because I still stop, stare, and enjoy it. I dream of having an original - someday. His current show (Oct 24 - Nov 21, 2009) once again delivers that rush I get when I walk into a gallery with a show of great work. It's vintage Houser in that it's an installation with on-site wall paintings, shelves with 3D works, all with his signatue palette, imagery, and words. And music, too! It might be easy for some to dismiss his work at first glance as being too cartoony or a send-up of self-taught art, but with some examination you'll at first begin to appreciate his craftsmanship, his consistency, and then that the work is not just a one-note cartoon and that there's quite a bit to grab hold of.

In his Fecal Face interview, Houser discusses his palette of subdued colors: "I like red and blue and variations of red and blue. That's the direction it seems to be going. Browns and tans. No more pink. No more orange. No more green. Even my black is just super dark blue or brown. My white has blue or brown in it. Sea water, dog fur, and dried blood. That's my inspiration."

Houser incorporates hand drawn words and phrases in various novelty typefaces, "visual poems" if you will. There is the temptation to read into and analyze the meanings and thoughts behind these words, which can be a pitfall in painting, but Houser merges them seamlessly in his works without overpowering the other images. They blend. They're fun. It's a carnival ride for your eyes, going from words to recognizable image to shapes to words again.

Some of the words reflect thoughts about his late wife and his own difficulties with health issues, among other things. With "Make Room for Emptiness" the press release states that Houser "has celebrated the affirmation of a new love and also has received medical treatment for his previous health condition." Both are cathartic elements for anyone to experience, and how could it not be reflected in an artist's work, particularly Jim Houser's?
Jonathan Levine Gallery is located at 529 W 20th St (10th and 11th Ave), 9th Flr, NYC.