Art & Life with Jonathan Adolphe
VoyageLA / February 11, 2019
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Adolphe.
Jonathan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I studied theater design at New York University but always wanted to be a painter. The painting I was drawn to make was a hybrid of both painting and sculpture. My first one man show in New York were abstract paintings covered in sand. My second one may show in New York were paintings on chalkboards with texts. I’ve had one man shows in Zurich, Tokyo, and Istanbul. Afterward, I felt stuck; an artist’s block had come over me. I turned my attention to raising my daughter and focusing on her becoming an artist. Julia Adolphe is now a successful contemporary classical composer commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and others.
When I returned to my work, I started painting portraits on wax. Chrissie Iles, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, awarded me 1st Prize for a diptych. A year later, a tornado hit my studio and ripped the roof off. I lost 20 years of work. This crisis was a blessing in disguise. With nothing left to lose, I turned to urethane and fiberglass. These were materials I always longed to work with because of their possible translucency. Their toxicity had made me leery. My solution was working at a foundry casting my images in urethane thereby embedding them beneath the surface. The next step is finishing the paintings in my studio with spray paint and airbrush. This series of painting is three years old. I feel I’ve found my voice.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My paintings are informed by a dialog with abstract art and graffiti writing. My paintings are drawn with powdered pigment dropped by hand onto a table top. A fiberglass veil is placed on top. Clear or tinted urethane is poured over this arrangement and squeegeed flat. This creates air bubbles that pop, leaving beautiful craters that dot the surface like a constellation. I fill in some of these craters with an eye dropper full of color. The final step is to paint the exterior or the skin of the painting with spray paint and airbrush.
My paintings have an interior and an exterior. The image is preserved beneath the surface. A thin translucent membrane separates the fragile interior from the coarse skin shielding it. The scarred, pockmarked skin acts as a protective barrier from the outside world. The works are a casting of the fragility of life, the fragility of feelings.
This interior is gently sealed off, partially obscured. It is a sacred space inviting and thwarting intimacy. The translucent membrane simultaneously reveals as it conceals. It is an image as metaphor for not being able to fully know another; for imperfectly seeing and being seen.
My painting is a helpless statement, one that was given me to ply… I didn’t choose it, it chose me. The necessity of expressing these guarded feelings led me to gravitate towards invoking natural phenomena with translucent qualities; fog, mist, clouds, water, and ice. Like an undiscovered creature embedded in ice, the paintings offer a reveal.
Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
The artist’s job is to find one’s personal voice and vision. The more personal and intimate, paradoxically, the more universal that voice can be.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be seen in private collections, Instagram, my website and my Brooklyn, New York studio. Recently I hosted a Frog and Scorpion performance, with dancer/choreographer Coco Karol and composer Sxip Shirey. Coco was painted to glow in the dark to match my phosphorescent paintings. This is a first of a series of collaborations I am planning. There has been interest expressed in having some of my paintings displayed outdoors in public spaces. I am currently looking for gallery representation and encouraging visits to my studio in order to find new people to work with.
Photographer: Adam Reich – Beach Beuys + The Theory of Erotic Capital, Life Among The Dinosaurs, Canary in the Coal Mine, Step Away from the Vehicle, Studio, Syzygy III, Frog and Scorpion – Set, Neon; Photographer of Jonathan Adolphe portrait – Daniel Krengiel