If you’re a fan of underground hip hop then you’ve probably seen Jason Jägel’s (NAP #25) work. He’s produced album cover art for the likes of Dudley Perkins, Madlib, and MF Doom, including the cover of the 2011 reissue of Operation: Doomsday (originally released in 1999), a classic in underground hip hop. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these names then you’re more likely to be impressed by the twenty years exhibiting that Jason has under his belt, half of those coming after he completed his MFA at Stanford University in 2002. His current exhibition, From the Sky, Rivers Look Like Snakes (through March 31), marks his first show in the expansive loft space of Gallery 16. It offers a glimpse at the narrative line drawings that have become Jason’s signature style. And it includes oil paintings — a first for the artist since 1997 — that seem to hint at the influences guiding his work.
In a recent review of the show, Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle described Jason as “Second Generation Mission School.” Baker was referring to the similarities between Jason’s line drawings and those of Mission School artists like Chris Johanson, who is a few years older, or Margaret Kilgallen, who graduated from Stanford one year prior to Jason. The tenability of the label “Second Generation Mission School” notwithstanding, there are certainly formal similarities and a comparable interest in sourcing inspiration from outside the studio and outside the gallery. For Jason, much of that inspiration comes from music. “The act of listening becomes the act of creating,” he told Juxtapoz a couple of years ago. “Music is one form of cultural production I can consume and process into my own work at the same time.”
In From the Sky, Rivers Look Like Snakes the works that are perhaps the most engrossing are also the ones that show the most compositional restraint. Jason’s large oil paintings are certainly more sparse than the elaborate and incongruous drawings that he is known for. But his confident linework is just as evident, if not more so, and his suspenseful visual narratives find a softer landing. At times Jason seems to be channeling the visual language of Philip Guston, referencing the oversized fingers that came to populate so many of Guston’s late paintings. With one eye on the street and the other in the history books, it’s as if Eddie Martinez and Guston had a love child and named him Jason Jägel. And the results are certainly noteworthy.
Jason Jägel received his MFA from Stanford University in 2002. Recently Jason was invited to create a limited edition project entitled “Take Me With You” for THE THING QUARTERLY. He has been featured in numerous solo and group shows since 1995 including those in New York, Tokyo, Copenhägen, Milan, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New Orleans. Jägel’s work appears in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The UCLA Hammer Museum and the Portland Museum of Art among others. –