This is the Next Morning (no means yes) ran June 8-July 22 at Margaret Tedesco’s [ 2nd floor projects ] in San Francisco. The show was a collection of paintings and a sculpture by Evan Ellsworth Jourden, a conceptual painter who took undergraduate and graduate degrees at SFAI and CCA between the years 1999-2003. He now lives and works in Seattle Washington. His paintings straddle that ambiguous line that separates the outsider, adolescent obsessive-compulsive genre from the genuine “I’m going to really use my skills to make a painting” academic type of painting. This push and pull defines the character and identifiable style that is Jourden’s, a morphing of the two previously mentioned styles. I can’t help but think of Martin Kippenburger.
Jourden’s paintings are consciously miss-matched, not in materials but in content, forcing you to make distant leaps and fill in the blanks while grappling with the next seemingly dislocated association. If you are American and grew up in the 70s and 80s as I did, Jourden’s curated and then painted images of domestic situations culled from mainstream women’s and family magazines could very well be your own.
What makes these images shift is the fact that they are rendered in paint that looks like oil (the substance of artistic masculinity). His paint is in fact a mixture of oil paint, house paint, and more… which he lists as “paint on panel.” This classical art form is used to critique the validity of the rituals and character of mainstream American domestic life of the 70s and 80s. A bit Norman Rockwell crossed with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
In the paintings that are populated with his figures with squished and warped faces you feel the critique to the point of uneasiness and if you keep looking they transcend into pure comedy. One feels both empathy and repulsion for the scenarios in Jourden’s paintings as in the image of the six adolescents all piled on top of each other in the form of a sandwich named pizzapeoplepile. There is something so wrong with what they are doing but somehow they are so unaware of it that their innocence just barely spares them. Jourden toys with this tension throughout the show, and gets away with it in a sophisticated way. An example is the still life of a gaudy yet comfortable reclining chair and side table with lamp and couch. Jourden’s source materials give him permission to magnify these cultural absurdities as with the honest and clear declaration of “I’m Retired Do it Yourself ” printed on a white t-shirt in a piece appropriately named (Retired) all I got was this t-shirt.
Jourden’s deconstruction of the mythical stability of the American life informs a pretty and sarcastic still life of magnolias and a spider web in which the spider has woven the words “come and play darling” titled Darling, Magnolias, which makes one evaluate the insecurity, fragility, and ephemeral nature of a spider’s life. There are other comparisons of human activity and the animal kingdom throughout the show such as that of a golden retriever couple wearing blond braided wigs with t-shirts titled Two of a kind (torture before dinner) and an image of a fierce but delicate miniature bat held by white gloves named Baby Fruit Bat (pita pan).
Between the skillful application of paint, subtle high-art references, and curious domestic content, Jourden plays a mean game of visual and mental hopscotch. His deft balance between control and kookiness is accessible but not obvious in just the right measure, making Jourden’s work well worth serious consideration.