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Review: Jordan Wolfson's Magnificent Obsession at 808 Projects

Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.EXPAND
Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.
Robert Delaney

Painter Jordan Wolfson is an artist’s artist, which is clear in his marvelous solo, Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson, now on display at 808 Projects. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Wolfson earned his MFA at the Yale School of Art, then began to exhibit nationally and internationally. Despite his far-flung fame, Wolfson has lived and worked in Longmont for many years, and that makes him a Colorado artist.

The show highlights the results of a painting process in which Wolfson set up a still life of objects in his studio, anchored by a piece of blue cloth that was sometimes draped over a chair. Over the course of three years, he created twenty-seven paintings and eleven drawings based on that scene; periodically, Wolfson would remove or shift elements in the still life so that details were changed between paintings. He calls the entire group a polyptych, though all the depictions are not necessarily meant to be shown together. In fact, the artist chose a representative selection of the series for the 808 show.

Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.EXPAND
Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.
Robert Delaney

While Wolfson embraces different styles for different paintings, his sensibility is consistent throughout, which allows the pieces to work together. In some of the paintings, he focuses on the objects in the scene, and the effects of light on them. This is particularly obvious in “Still Life and Pitcher with Two Bowls I,” a traditional realist rendition of the still life with precisely applied pigment and delicate brushstrokes. In others he uses intuition expressed through heavily worked paint to convey the abstracted iteration of the still life, as seen in “Still Life and Pitcher with Two Bowls II.”

There are a lot of variations in between these two styles, and even beyond. And regardless of how the painting comes out, each one is based on Wolfson’s direct response to the scene he created.

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Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.EXPAND
Installation view of Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson.
Robert Delaney

The exhibit is beautifully installed, so that some arrangements appear to depict a progression from realist to abstract, while others are grouped to show off emphatic shifts between the particular type of depiction. As Wolfson’s process unfolds through the paintings, the show becomes more and more interesting. Just as Wolfson took on a contemplative task by going back repeatedly to the same scene, the show takes the viewer on a similarly thoughtful experience, if a decidedly less arduous one.

Although Wolfson has shown work around the world over the past 25 years, this 808 exhibit is his first Colorado solo since 2009. That alone makes it a must-see show.

Song Cycle with Blue Cloth (abridged): Paintings by Jordan Wolfson runs through Sunday, February 24, at 808 Projects, located at 808 Santa Fe Drive in the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe. For more information, go to 808projects.com or jordanwolfson.com.

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