April 10 - June 19, 2021
From the gallery:
“Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce Twenty-Eight Skies, an exhibition of large new works on paper by Jason Middlebrook—the artist’s fifth show at the gallery.
The common theme across all of Jason Middlebrook’s work is an exploration of man’s relationship with nature—symbiotic at times; often adversarial, misguided, or underappreciated; always nuanced and always evolving (for better or worse). Over the course of his career, he has developed a visual vocabulary in pursuit of these ideas—based on the tension between images of plant or animal life (organic forms) and geometric abstraction (a stand-in for mankind and the built world).
For the last ten years, Middlebrook has focused on making paintings on the surfaces of live-edge slabs of wood, most of which are planks that lean against the wall. Prior to that, his medium of choice was acrylic and ink on paper. His newest body of work marks a return to the media of his artistic origins, the continued development of his pictorial language, and a new, amplified scale—the drawings in this show all measure 60 x 40 inches. Middlebrook has come full circle in Twenty-Eight Skies, echoing the cyclical nature of the earth and its many inhabitants.
While the rest of us were gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and political upheaval around the globe in 2020, Middlebrook was tuned into the record-breaking environmental disasters roiling the natural world. Fires in California burned more than four million acres last year (double the previous record set in 2018). Just two months ago, Texas saw snowstorms that crippled its power grid, leaving more than 100 dead and millions without heat or running water for days on end. Although no individual weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, scientists have been explaining for decades that the frequency and intensity of natural disasters will increase unless we can coordinate a global effort to significantly curtail carbon emissions.
Much of the new work in Twenty-Eight Skies can be imagined as bearing witness to a mortal struggle between man and nature, between frenetic geometric patterns and the humble flora we too often overlook and take for granted. In several pieces, curlicues of stems and leaves and flowers reach for the sun but are interrupted and overwhelmed by repeating angular shapes painted in acidic gradients or psychedelic rainbows.
And yet despite directing an unflinching eye upon our impending doom, Middlebrook’s work is never without hope. (Similarly, most climate scientists say we still have time to redirect our fate.) In addition to drawings of botanical distress, we see a handful of flowers and ferns in harmony with their surroundings (each gradient of atmospheric blue in the show’s eponymous drawing, Twenty-Eight Skies, lives within a polygonal facet (as if from a polished gemstone) and frames a silhouette of an elegant frond).
More surprisingly, though, Middlebrook has also turned his attention to birds. (In The Birds that Live Outside My Studio, we see a column of overlapping bird heads—a hummingbird, woodpecker, mallard, blue jay, heron, warbler (each bird’s feathers rendered in painstaking detail)—with their beaks pointing in opposing directions to form a unified, balanced whole.) An avid birder who enjoys the company of all manner of songbirds, hawks, buzzards, and even the occasional eagle on his property in upstate New York, Middlebrook sees our avian brethren as symbols of altruism. Many birds, of course, regurgitate their own food for their young or their mates. Some helper birds, like the African white-fronted bee-eater, spend vast amounts of time and energy caring for hatchlings that are not even their own—helping ensure the group’s survival and prosperity in an otherwise harsh environment. Cooperation, as it turns out, may be more rewarding than individualistic competition for resources. And however disputed the specifics of climate science may be, one thing is certain: no one person can solve the problem on their own.
Jason Middlebrook, born in 1966 in Michigan, lives and works in Hudson, New York. He has mounted solo exhibitions at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Connecticut), New Museum (New York), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Monica Museum of Art, and SCAD Museum of Art (Georgia). He has created major outdoor artworks for the Albright Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Metropolitan Transit Authority (New York), Public Art Fund (New York), and Sun Valley Center for the Arts (Idaho). His work is in the collections of the Addison Gallery of American Art (Massachusetts), Denver Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art (New York), Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Marte Museum (San Salvador), NASA Art Program (Washington DC), New Museum (New York), Princeton University Art Museum, Progressive Art Collection (Ohio), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.”
On View: April 10, 2021 | 1–5 pm
360 Nueces Street, Suite C
Austin, 78701 TX
(512) 215-4965Get directions