On 5 January 2012, Mary Boone Gallery will open at its Fifth Avenue location Reunion, a
selection of work from the 1980s by JIM ISERMANN.
Isermann belongs to that influential second generation of LA artists who post-graduated
from CalArts in the late 1970s. Isermann had been ahead of the curve by being out of step
to begin with. During the high point of Postmodernism, he was excavating Modernism –
West Coast Modernism in particular – at a time when it was overlooked, even abject and
defeated. These seminal works, abstract and sometimes functional, work the then vacated
borderline between art and design, anticipating the return to functionalism that later
engaged many artists a decade younger. The fact that Isermann’s early work was
handmade also reintroduced to critical discourse debates around craft associated with
feminist and queer positions.
Immediately following Isermann’s vacuum-formed drop ceiling installation at the Chelsea
space, this exhibition, his second at Mary Boone Gallery, presents a dozen or more works
from the mid to late 1980s and one work from 1993. The centerpiece of the show is the
1985 Flower Seating Group. Designed to function as gallery furniture, in this work five
painted, plywood-framed, lawn-chair-webbed supports surround five petal shaped tables
and face out toward the gallery walls as opposed to acknowledging each other. A Flower
Ceiling Pendant Light and a Flower Painting, both adjunct components of this work’s
original 1986 installation, are also on view.
Completing the exhibition is an array of four-foot-square enamel on wooden panel Hole
Paintings and a complementary painted steel mobile, two sets of prototypical Shag
Paintings, and one hand-pieced fabric wall hanging. The serial Hole Paintings utilized
generic optical patterns and color schemes rotated around a pattern-integral void. The
Shag Paintings pair latch hook Orlon acrylic yarn (low art) panels with hard edge
geometric enamel (high art) panels. While painfully didactic, the Shag Paintings also
create an optical experience as the hard edge pattern slips into the seemingly out-of-focus
yarn section, and back again. The meditative and serenely sublime Wall Hanging from
1993 is constructed of over 1500 hand-pieced fabric triangles.
While these works resonate with the best populist examples of Super Graphics they never
settle for being retrograde. The works take as their starting point the most elementary of
geometric and coloristic units: they are as aesthetically persuasive as the best
manifestations of geometric art of the last century.