David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce its participation in Art Cologne 2017 with a solo presentation of new paintings by Jon Pestoni. Featuring works on canvas as well as large-scale works on paper, the presentation highlights recent innovations in Pestoni’s approach to abstraction and his increasingly heterogeneous vision of what painting is and what it can represent.
Pestoni has long been interested in the contradiction of pushing compositions forward by introducing elements that block, obfuscate, or cancel out their visual foundations. These have included the application of layers of paint that cover receding arrays of previous moves, or the use of non-traditional materials like ceramic aggregate that disrupt surfaces otherwise characterized by their consistency. Such strategies evoke the anxieties of a moment when it has become difficult to describe art history, not to mention history in general, in terms of linear progress. In Pestoni’s hands, painting, the most traditional and seemingly stable of artistic mediums, becomes a palimpsest on which the urgency of contemporary doubt is recorded again and again.
Perhaps the most notable feature of these new works is the visibility of representational imagery, previously hidden within the artist’s stacked layers. But rather than treat these images as the subjects of his compositions, Pestoni allows them to co-exist alongside and between the results of other, non-objective painterly modes. Bold geometric shapes, all-over washes of color, and gestural brushwork both support and disrupt the visual integrity of passages that either flirt with or overtly conjure figurative forms. The paintings that feature these forms hold together as unified statements precisely because they thoroughly risk forcing themselves apart.
However, as a result of pushing compositions to the brink in this way, several other attributes have also begun to appear for the first time. For instance, almost all of the works on view have been finished with vibrant, hovering, rectilinear areas of paint that boldly divide their foregrounds. In some cases these have been rendered using luminous, spectrum-like sweeps of color that import a decidedly Southern Californian light and introduce hints of a pop-like sensibility. And while Pestoni’s seductively waxy surfaces remain largely intact, in some places he has also begun to experiment with a more overtly liquid kind of touch, laying on paint with bigger and more immediately evident brushstrokes. This tendency is especially dramatic in the paintings on paper, among the largest the artist has produced to date, in which ceramic particles are mixed into the oil medium, creating both sculptural and illusionistic relief.
Each of these advances in turn opens up the contextual field in which the paintings operate, making it harder to confine them within the realm of abstraction, and locating them among the work of artists for whom painting is not even necessarily a sole means of expression. This varied group of influences might include both the no-holds-barred, wide-ranging intensity of Kippenberger and the calculated, philosophically targeted rigor of Richter; but it also encompasses the examples of avant-garde sound and performance artists and filmmakers who have developed highly structured languages to describe and bring form to chaos. In this sense, Pestoni continually dips into the history of painting in order to depart from it, producing images that celebrate disquiet, resist closure, and foster improvisatory participation in the swarm of contemporary life.
In 2016, Jon Pestoni (b. 1969 St. Helena, California) was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. Other recent solo exhibitions include shows at Real Fine Arts, New York (2016) and, with Alex Hubbard, Eleni Koroneou Gallery, Athens (2014). Among recent group exhibitions are Trace of Existence, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2016); Feed the Meter, Galerie Bernard Ceysson, Luxembourg (2015); Abstraction (sound and vision), Todd Madigan Gallery, California State University Bakersfield (2013); Alone Together, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2013); and Real Simple, selections from the collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, Riverview School, East Sandwich, Massachusetts (2012). Pestoni lives and works in Los Angeles.