Joel Mesler’s new series are on view in Hong Kong this summer. Employing words and images, Mesler draws on childhood memories and life experiences to inform paintings that meld his private impressions with cultural touchstones, illuminating elements of universal human consciousness.
On view for the first time, the artworks in Mental States introduce a lush camouflage pattern that engages Mesler’s signature style of bold color and bright figuration, and provides a backdrop for the artist’s artfully rendered calligraphic scripts, which here convey idioms, expressions of mental states, and elements of the subconscious. Vibrant in color and pattern, and personal in sentiment, the paintings encourage self-reflection while inspiring imagination and reverie. Following the presentation at LGDR, the seven artworks will be included in a major solo exhibition at the Long Museum in Shanghai.
The distinctive large-scale canvases, all dated 2022, probe the psyche through text and image. Evoking responses to external realities, phrases such as Identity Crisis, Well Being, Stress Test, and Safe Space are portrayed in Mesler’s unique fonts and characterized by honey-colored drips, unfurling ribbons, leopard prints, and enveloping flame—all emblazoned across undulating camouflage. The pattern acts as a visual representation of mental state as place, a metaphysical creation that forms the sites for his chosen expressions. However, Mesler’s camouflage serves as both stage and curtain, at once revealing and concealing rhetorical admissions like Wet Dream, Freudian Slip, and Me, Myself, and I, which often remain private and disguised.
With this series, camouflage joins Mesler’s signature banana leaves and aqueous pool patterns as a transportive setting, moving both artist and viewer into alternative realms. As the artist has described, a stillness and quiet, simultaneously suppressive and expansive, can be found in dense jungle interiors and underwater—environments that focus the mind by muffling the stimuli of contemporary life. The artist has stated his use of camouflage was inspired, in part, by Andy Warhol’s militaristically minded camouflage works of the 1980s, emphasizing Mesler’s connection to the legacy of American Pop and his place in a lineage of artists including Ed Ruscha and Christopher Wool. Invigorating fresh inspirations and broadening his visual lexicon, Mental States continues the artist’s wry, vulnerable examination of the place where personal and popular iconography convene.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)