As his first solo exhibition in New York, this show marks a notable departure for the artist. The works in MAN’S RUIN pay tribute to the corrupting allure of Sex, Money, Drugs and Power. Rendered in Jacques’ familiar iconography, representation commingles with abstraction in each piece. MWJ’s work seems to not only depict man’s vice but to embody man’s temptation itself.
The complex, geometric abstractions of Mark Warren Jacques belong to a long running tradition of mysticism in the history of painting. It is easy to see their relationship to the occult geometries of Charmion Von Wiegond, or the tumultuous, semi textual abstractions of American Modernist Stuart Davis. MWJ also shares a particular set of DIY vibrations with mission school artists Barry McGee and Chris Johansson.
Panes of iridescent color collide, warp into explosions of delicate line, and traipse across fields of color. Anthropomorphic shapes seem to convey a helter-skelter optimism, allowing one to feel the sublime in little idiosyncratic bursts. It is easy to recognize this same potent strand of whimsy one finds while staring at the humbling scale of a desert landscape. Jacques’ great strength is his ability to shift that gaze into a knowing wink. His paintings become like personal talismans. Similar to the symbols painted so commonly on Amish barns in his native Ohio they convey a homegrown kind of magic.
Simplifying his often complex formal vocabulary, MWJ tackles a unique, particularly physical subject matter. In one of the most minimal of the works in the exhibition, the ambiguously arched curves of the painting aptly titled ‘Drugs,’ threaten to wrap the viewer in a woozy embrace. In similar fashion, the curvilinear form of female anatomy cascades down the surface of ‘Sex’. The largest work in the show, ‘Power,’ threatens to vibrate itself off of the wall. A stark modernist grid suggests the stern architecture of a big city downtown. The cubist jumble of collapsed space and frowning condos are imbued with a pulsing, techno backbeat of screaming neon, leaving the viewer with a psychic jumble of pleasure and anxiety.