The Grip exhibition features a selection of stellar new paintings by American artist Michael Ajerman. His recent oil paintings on canvas continue to highlight his mastery of tightly structured compositions, that simultaneously entice the viewer’s imagination to unfold. With his luscious movement of paint, Ajerman captures the essence of his subjects in a few effortless brush strokes. His muted palette and roughly rendered figures, aptly reflect the tensions of this era which are brewing beneath the surface. Although the scenes he envisions hover somewhere between fiction and reality, they ultimately reflect our common experiences.
Ajerman’s visceral handling of paint is not expressive in the traditional, art historical sense because of its skillful precision, however he uses the tactile viscosity of the paint to energize the ordered and manicured settings. His seductive handling of the paint in Santa Monica Pool for example, reveals the power of the psyche even in fleeting moments of intimacy at the edge of the pool. Unlike recent paintings by expressionistic artists that attempt to tell larger narratives, such as Tom Anholt or Laurence Egloff, his scenarios have an immediacy that mimics what we experience in the fast-paced, digital reality we live in.
Grip, the painting which the show is titled after, teases us with an erotic gesture that doesn’t seems spontaneous and matter-of-fact. The male and female figures caught in an act of love-making underscore the reoccurring theme of relationship and connectedness in Ajerman’s oeuvre. Rather than emphasizing flesh of sexuality, the characters seem to embody a moment of collision between two separate beings. Many of his images hint at the idea of encounter, which is emphasized by depicting our relationships with domestic creatures. The playful gesture of a cat resting on a man’s buttocks is a gleeful celebration of the mundane in Wake-Up and the viewer feels his sense of delight with every brush stroke.
Another aspect of humor is brought into Ajerman’s work with the interjection of fairy tale elements, some of which are jarring or perplexing at first glance. In Pinocchio Alone, the mischievous children’s book protagonist is lost and alone with own thoughts sprawled out in the middle of a field. Return of Possessions introduces two mythological characters who are engaged in a mysterious and foreboding exchange in a forest clearing. Transporting the viewer beyond the expected settings of a home or garden, these fables add a level of wonder to his arresting vignettes and perhaps suggest that our daily conundrums are being played out in a parallel universe.