September 25 – November 6, 2021
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to announce Seasonal Concepts, a major solo exhibition spanning across two gallery spaces by Los Angeles-based artist Jake Longstreth. The exhibition is a continued exploration of the artist’s architectural painting, which has characterized his practice for several years. These works depict the ubiquitous corporate retail and restaurant chains that have proliferated across the US in the last few decades, many of which still populate the landscape today.
The title of the show is borrowed from one of its paintings, Seasonal Concepts. Depicting a store of the same name, a grimy ghost remains of the store’s recently removed signage—perhaps signaling an ironic end to all shopping seasons, at least at this venue. The exhibition will feature two aspects of the artist’s oeuvre, major oils on canvas as well as a gallery dedicated to his works on paper. The ambitious scale of Longstreth’s new paintings match the monumentality of the buildings themselves. By the same token, his smaller works on paper feel like a collection of family photographs or postcards – an intimate slideshow of a begone road trip across a sunbaked landscape.
Longstreth created two works for the exhibition which he calls “the most pathetic history paintings ever.” Depicting Florida in the year 1982, he shows us the founding of The First Olive Garden and The First Hooters. The First Olive Garden differs greatly from the faux stone Tuscan architectural fantasies flanked by Cypress trees we see today. Likely, the mid-century building wasn’t built with an “Italian-ness” in mind. The artist describes these found images he references as somehow “haunted.” This demarcation of an era before Town Centres reveals that these omnipresent chains indeed had humble origins before achieving their current aspirational, theme-park veneer.
The artist’s command of light is as dramatic as ever; and the raking, long shadows and gleaming skies aid his often-paradoxical mood and complex storytelling. The shady foreground in Tulips exalts the sunlit Barnes & Noble in the background into a suburban library of Alexandria. At its base, a yellow excavator toils away, a busy bee in a shadowy flowerbed. In Arizona Red Lobster, the long shadow across the foreground draws our eye to the massive saguaro at center. The giant cactus certainly outdates the land-locked mariner-themed seafood restaurant by hundreds of years; it is a mystic relic enduring at the foot of an odd temple.
Just as with his past works, Longstreth’s painterly style at first seems hyperreal from afar but is highly stylized up close. Arranging forms to puzzle together, organized just imperfectly enough to keep the eye moving, he paints a multiplicity of shapes with a flat, matte paint that achieves a remarkable consistency across canvas, muslin or paper. His flowers are a cluster of dots, his cacti terse brushstrokes, leaves are crescents, and his stones, flat blobs. His playfulness often brings attention to peculiar aspects in a painting. In Buddies, a crowd of uniformed soldiers gathers outside the grand opening of a Chili’s. One can get lost in the painted camouflage of their fatigues, a patterning reminiscent of the rocky hillsides in some of Longstreth’s previous works. Besides the humor inherent in the highly anticipated Grand Opening of a Chili’s, the very idea of the speckled camouflage ever blending in to this stark, freshly painted cube adds to the work’s comedy.
While Longstreth’s works convey his characteristic humor and affability, his depiction of the American cultural landscape is purposefully open-ended. There are many potential readings of the works in Seasonal Concepts, as the subjects have widespread associations. A cynical eye may see an acerbic critique of vulgar corporate development that has replaced Main Street and is soon to be hollowed out by e-commerce. Another, more enchanted eye may find nostalgia and appreciation for these safe havens that radiate with a sense of familiarity. Likely the consequence of viewing the works occupies a space in-between. Longstreth invites us to celebrate and commemorate the reality of our landscape for what it is, completely ordinary yet uniquely ours.
Jake Longstreth (b. 1977, Sharon, CT; lives and works in Los Angeles) received his MFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. He has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions at Almine Rech, New York; David Kordansky, Los Angeles; Gregory Lind Gallery, San Francisco; Crisp Ellert Museum, St. Augustine, Florida; Monya Rowe Gallery, New York; M Woods, Beijing; and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.