How to Operate in a
Luis de Jesus Los Angeles
Jonathan VanDyke’s opulent sewn paintings fuse geometric pattern and expressive gesture. His works emerge through complex and prolonged processes of accumulating, mark-making, and piecing, often taking over a year to conceive and construct. Gathered from his family, friends, and companions, the fabrics that make up his paintings are stained and marked by way of techniques he first devised through long-term collaborations with performers from the NYC queer art community. Earlier sewn paintings – including a pair shown in the group exhibition The Road at the gallery in 2013 – revealed the traces of dancers who moved directly atop raw canvas, working through choreographies around themes such as submission and domination. During a long recovery from a major accident in 2017 – the artist broke both of his wrists – he undertook a period of deep research into historic craft practices. This resulted in a 2018 performance at The Columbus Museum: in the museum's rotunda he mounted 16 historic quilts from their collection, most of which had never been on public view, and stood and contemplated them in silence for 48 hours, honoring the labor of the anonymous women who made them. This sense of attentiveness and introspection, and an abiding interest in the life of objects, infuses VanDyke's new paintings, which he conceives of as meditative devices.
VanDyke has noted that the recovery period following his accident also gave him time to study and refine his use of color and to devise quieter, subtler, more intricate painted marks: "the sorts of marks I had never seen before, where I found myself letting the materials express their own qualities, rather than forcing my hand." While on first glance the works appear to comprise a single abstract surface, a close view reveals that they are made from hundreds of sewn pieces, and that he leaves details such as seams, buttons, and pockets intact. "Abstracting is not forgetting," the artist wrote in a letter accompanying his recent exhibition as Visual Artist in Residence for the Chelsea Music Festival in New York. "Clothing – the common objects of everyday life, infused with the movement and life of its wearers – comes into contact with a notion of abstraction as a state of transformation and an expression of sensuality and the sublime." In a work such as Bracing, denim and twill pants have been stained through slow pours and thin washes of paint, and then overdyed to create subtle transitions from blue-green to blue-black. Its pattern is drawn from a rug designed by Gertrud Arndt in 1924 for a Bauhaus administrative office. The painting Blue Pulse, made from linen, silk, and cotton dress shirts soaked in washes of paint and ink for weeks at a time, is backed in brightly dyed linen, some of it embroidered with flowers and birds. VanDyke views the paintings as having a public and a private side, so that when they are installed on a wall, they "hold part of themselves out of view"...