On ViewSteven Harvey Fine Art Projects
August 2 – August 31, 2018
What can a gate be? This is not a riddle, however, in his recent body of paintings one could say Jason Stopa approaches it as one. Yes, a gate can in theory be one of three things—open, closed, or ajar—but Stopa uses the canvas (and gallery space) as a site to challenge and wittily reflect the way depictions of space can be employed in a painting. It is through a combination of multiplex color-play and the simple gestures and arrangements of lines which suggest elemental architectural forms that Stopa creates a sense of multiple planes.
Not only does Stopa build space, he also draws its limits. This is achieved using lines and blocks of color to frame off rooms and windows painted atop bright color-fields of waxing and waning opacities. Each painting offers a way in and a way out. You enter a contained zone—a room, an arena for action, for viewing, a theatre—within which sits the framed off windows, worlds, new color fields some of which are closed (flat panes), some of which are open (gradient planes), and some of which are ajar (combinations of the two). The exits (the gates and windows) in the paintings create an impression of a recursive escapism.
In the gallery, the walls are a bright yellow on top of which a red pattern echoing that of a chain-linked fence has been painted. Stopa’s seven large canvases are hung upon the walls as though suspended from the fence and come to function as visual breaches in the painted enclosure. The installation lends the sense that, as a viewer, you have entered the space depicted in one of the paintings, adding yet another layer to the already layered, self-referential worlds which nest like a matryoshka doll.
Stopa’s clever titles direct the viewer down different lanes of reflection as each of the seven paintings come to feel like both iterations and interrogations of different aspects of the same question. In Two Abstractions on a Stage (2018)a series of red lines form the fence-like framework of a stage that floats atop a washy gradient fading from blue into orange. Hanging above the stage are, quite literally, two gestural strokes upon two side by side opaque, green rectangles. Above the abstract, gestural brushwork sits a small impervious yellow window framed by a doughy impasto. Stopa’s presentation of the abstractions take on a multivalence as both abstractions and representations of abstractions. By placing the abstractions on “a stage,” Stopa not only evokes a durational, performative process—action unfolding in time—but also the presence of an audience.
Johari Window, (2018) one of the larger paintings in the show, references a heuristic exercise used as a method for individuals to better understand themselves and the way they are perceived by others. Participants place a fixed set of adjectives describing the subject into four quadrants (arena, facade, blind-spot, and unknown) based upon perceived personality traits. In Stopa’s Johari Window, the subject of the exercise can be understood as the self-reflexive painting, while a viewer can be implicated as a contributing participant (the inverse scenario can be true too!).
Named for the ambient soundscapes created by Harold Budd in the late ’70s, In the Pavillion (for Harold Budd), (2018) is a canny visual translation of Budd’s sonic theatre. The connection to Budd underscores the atmospheric thread that is woven within this series of paintings. Both Stopa’s paintings and Budd’s music are structured upon open, permeable architectures. In the repeated arches on Stopa’s canvas you can sense the reverberations of Budd’s cascading saxophone lines.
In its playful questioning, The Gate proves Stopa successful in his approach to laying his medium’s cards out on a glass table. These paintings are at once open, closed, and ajar.
ELIZA BARRY is an artist, writer, and musician. She lives and works in New York City.