(catalog essay for exhibition at Cynthia Broan)
Little Corner of the World
These are strange paintings. They spell mayhem and decay.
Looking like cell and tissue lab specimens suspended in formaldehyde, one
is taken aback by the intensity found in these abstract forms. Their loose
cartoon-like shapes are drawn with anatomical precision although they are
the by-products of a random process.
Using an expressionist painter's drip and pour technique, the artist
Jonathan Feldschuh layers his canvases with a thick build-up of several
clear polymer coats which magnify colorful loopy forms floating beneath the
transparent viscous surface. Quite heavy and industrial in appearance, these
canvases, (stretched over wood panels), show details of organic forms which
have been enlarged or reduced thousands of times in scale. With contrary
titles like "Little Corner of the World" and "Wash It Till You Get It
Clean", this series has a humorous undercurrent.
In nature there are no straight lines -if we examine under a microscope
the seemingly perfect straightness of a line, you'd note the rows of
irregular edges that hold it all together. New connections between the whole
and its summary parts would be revealed. In much the same way Feldschuh's
amorphous shapes float in space, spreading and congealing, imploding and
exploding, tangling up into an array of non- specific mutations. Feldschuh
shows us the fractal nature of ocular reality.
The boundaries between the unseen world and the seen are perhaps best
explored through abstraction. Life is given to previously inanimate
organisms; pigments bead and clump onto canvas, molecular activity at work.
Recent advances in molecular genetics have brought the biological
sciences into the mainstream consciousness. The phenomenological questions
speculating on why things look the way they do have been in the domain not
only of scientists, but artists too.
The latest trends in abstraction have been beholden to a new 21st century
Pop sensibility and a culture spawned and hybridized from nostalgia,
technology, electronic music, and the Internet. Distinguished by their
bright Pop colors, biomorphic forms and references to animation, two of
Feldschuh's abstract contemporaries, Giles Lyon and Mark Dean Veca feed off
the bombardment of new media images. Veering off conceptually, Jonathan
Feldschuh is more old school, less concerned (though attuned) with Pop
culture, than with Post War history and the tenets of abstract expression.
He brings a scientific background (via his study of physics at Harvard) into
his approach to painting. The gestures that give a face to his abstractions
are not easy to digest. They're visceral and cryptic, even ungainly, as if
the sexless forms were fighting their way up the evolutionary ladder only to
be thwarted by inescapable forces. Experimenting with the cause and effect
of deduction and logic, there remains a constant tension between an
ever-present entropy and the containment of that morphing decay.
The last five years of the 20th century saw contemporary painting of
every conceivable genre return to a prominent place in the Zeitgeist, as if
it had gone anywhere in the first place. Digital art, and new media in
general, is changing the practice of art making and how we perceive objects.
The complexity of the natural world is now aped in genetic cloning and
virtual verisimilitude. Ironically this series of paintings perform those
very tasks-fantastical sci-fi creations that are creepy, uncanny, and
- Max Henry