The Pit is pleased to present a solo show of new works by Los Angeles based artist Jonathan Casella, our very last exhibition in the Glendale gallery (we promise!). “This Palace” will be on view from January 13 - February 17, 2024 with an artist reception on Sunday January 14th from 3-5pm.
“Poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau advised in his masterpiece Walden that “if you have built castles in the air…that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Jonathan Casella imagined palatial vessels capable of holding the elusive, incandescent inner workings of his mind where memories, emotions, and ideas meet and merge. The nine paintings in This Palace offer blueprints or foundations for such mental monuments, replete with graphic patterns, kaleidoscopic compositions, collaged imagery, and a phosphorescent color palette. “I wanted to know what it would look like to contain life, feelings, sentimentality, and nostalgia into a structure, a seemingly non-functional vessel,” explains the artist.
At first glance, the pictures appear as mixed media collages, but upon closer inspection, it’s clear that all the elements are painted, either screen printed in acrylic, brushed, or stenciled. The flattening effect eliminates depth and texture, forcing all forms onto a single plane. In one sense, the graphic shapes and hard edges are reminiscent of comic book cells, where the representational content unfolds narratively from left to right. In this way, the photographs, line drawings, and logos are interrelated and progressive. One can interrupt emotional resonance, actions and reactions, relationships, and energetic exchange from the arrangements of images, colors, shapes, and patterns. Meaning is linguistic and temporal and requires movement on the viewer’s part through the labyrinthine spaces.
In another sense, the compositions are like constellations of spontaneous simultaneous events. Meaning is gleaned as much from what’s invisible as visible, where third things arise between two explicit forms. Relying less on linguistic and syntactical constructions, significance comes from impression, atmosphere, chance, and intervention. Rather than following the organizing principles of a physical structure, this interpretation reflects the atemporal realm of the mind, where disparate thoughts and recollections run up against each other, causing conscious and unconscious connections to form. The gestural meaning of the whole exceeds the sum of its parts.
That the images are not pulled from stock photography or random media but are culled from the artist’s own archives lends the works a sense of inherent cohesion and internal logic. While the specific personal implications and allusions remain largely unknown to the viewer, specific images function like clues or features of a portrait of the maker. Nods to significant artists that have influenced Casella’s practice can be found in the form of a Pablo Picasso horse, a Jonas Wood vessel, and an Alexander Calder sculpture. Elsewhere, photographs of specific places align with the artist’s biography, pop culture icons infer a particular generational culture, and recurring motifs like flowers and cartoons suggest an idiosyncratic aesthetic sensibility.
Beyond offering portals into the artist’s mind, no small part of the joy of the works comes from witnessing how one’s own likeness emerges, like the negative image on a film strip between the referents. Much like a Rorschach test or a “choose your own adventure” story, the compositions offer infinite opportunities for comprehension, interpretation, and visual stimulation. Casella laid the foundation and built the structure, but the castle’s contents remain open for co-creation and reanimation.” –Tara Anne Dalbow