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Los Angeles
Jp1
Jon-Paul Villegas
Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
January 19, 2008 - February 23, 2008


Sublime Slang
by Catherine Wagley


Jon-Paul Villegas’s installation at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery is a crude habitat of carefully crafted paraphernalia. The exhibition, appropriately titled Heavy Light, combines an overload of eclectic “stuff” with an exquisitely traditional attention to aesthetic beauty. Villegas pushes the sensibility of ephemeral installation art like that of Susan Hiller or Annette Messager, presenting a slang version of the sublime. And there’s something about slang that always makes you feel like you’re having lots more fun.

The works in the exhibition are titled Heavy Light (1-10), all variations on a theme. The largest of the wall installations, Heavy Light (10), an assemblage of towels, colored glue, paint, tape, a kitschy canvas, a plastic pickle, and a framed photo, spans a map-like, horizontal space. Because of its landscape style composition, Heavy Light (10) has the feel of an improvised urban narrative. Heavy Light (6) and (8), both positioned under pithy language paintings with text pulled from a book of nude photographs, also have an improvised quality. Intimate sculptures made of colored glue, glass shards and twigs, they look as if they are the fragile embodiments of what hides behind the naked words of the language paintings.

Villegas’s installation has the quality of a smart Charles Mingus improvisation—the jazz great who could be innovative, crude, incisive and cliché all at the same time. Mingus always kept in touch with his notations. He knew the language of music and he knew what he had to work within, but he also knew when and how to take liberties. Fables of Faubus, Mingus’s stab at Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus in which he vacillated between verbal chants, harmonious refrains and discordant solos, comes to mind. Villegas’s fun, slang-filled variations are equally improvisational but Villegas never loses track of the underlying structure of the visual language he knows so well. The result is a carefully calculated innovation in which vernacular and sophisticated visual texts interact—billboards scraps and hand-me-downs join composed lines and painted fields.

-Catherine G. Wagley


(*Images, from top to bottom:  Jon-Paul Villegas, Heavy Light, January 19 - February 23, 2008; Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Installation View, 2008, Courtesy of Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles. 
Jon-Paul Villegas, Heavy Light, January 19 - February 23, 2008; Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Installation View, 2008, Courtesy of Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles. Jon-Paul Villegas, Heavy Light, January 19 - February 23, 2008; Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Installation View, 2008, Courtesy of Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles. Jon-Paul Villegas, Heavy Light, January 19 - February 23, 2008; Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Installation View, 2008, Courtesy of Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.)


Posted by Catherine Wagley on 2/3/08

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