Jonni Cheatwood’s Solo Exhibition at Artual Gallery

May 2, 2019
Over the Influence

Blurring the lines between the surrealism, figurative and abstract expressionism, Jonni Cheatwood has developed a kinetically evocative and imaginative, pictorial language to compliment his personal graffiti- like writing system one which closely mimics that of an action painter.

Cheatwood ́s process for these new, large-scale works begins on his Los Angeles studio floor, where he energetically strives to solve the puzzle of composition by combining an array of fabrics sourced from the Los Angeles Fashion District with old photographs that his grandfather-in-law took traveling across the United States in the 1950 ́s. Often printed on canvas, these elements are then combined with unique oddities old Bingo and playing cards, [other thing], and [other thing] forming the background of his pieces, before he applies vibrant, abstract shapes as the subjects of his work for consideration.

Cheatwood hand-sews select fabrics together, constructing a canvas that resembles a quilt before stretching it, pulling his freshly-stitched canvases as tight as possible, which contributes a physical tension to his work. Cheatwood then moves his process to the wall, beginning the second phase in the composition of his pieces. This method is especially evident in his newest body of work, which seeks to explore the intersection of nostalgia and tension.

Cheatwood lays down inorganic shapes with layers of colorful paint, blending both acrylic and oil, and embraces their natural interplay as it occurs. This convergence, giving space for both intentional and accidental exchanges, gives Cheatwood ́s work a reactionary and intuitive flair. By working without a clear format or composition in mind, Cheatwood ́s final creations effortlessly unfold into texture-rich and vibrant assemblages that evoke the feeling of controlled visual chaos and tension, while simultaneously maintaining the careful, intentional details of layered marks captured across different mediums. By playing with composition, Cheatwood mixes the old and the new, creating an expressive and exciting pressure between these adopted elements.

That ́s Dallas Baby showcases Cheatwood ́s work as it operates both in the abstract, void of any obvious subject matter, and the literal, as he applies his take on deconstructed portraiture a genre that dominated his early practice, albeit through an untraditional and unanticipated visual means where he poured paint onto self-portraits and called them drippies. In this exhibition, Cheatwood disrupts a traditional portraiture practice, using his work to illustrate an assembly of characters derived from the artist ́s own imagination.

These canvases are built up in a vocabulary that has undergone multiple iterations: from the distorted and the Condo-esque references, to the removed humanoid. Cheatwood ́s subjects have nevertheless appeared somewhat familiar and almost cartoon-like, referencing classics such as Charles Schultz ́s Peanuts. Demonstrative of a new development in Cheatwood ́s body of work, these pieces present the subject ́s face as a scrambled and colorful pictorial landscape, obstructing viewer ́s impulses to read portraits for narrative meaning, and often reveals something of the subject ́s inner psyche.

In paintings such as Not Many People Can Hit That Note But I Can, the subject is a deconstructed baseball player, sewn to resemble a glitch, and the inner consciousness of what may go through his mind as a fastball approaches him, or perhaps he is waiting for explode this cluster of shapes with the swing of a bat.

In other works, such as Hey Lefty! Whats Your Problem? or 3 Phones Jones, the imagery is much more abstracted, with shapes and blocks of color traced in black line and placed together like an abstract puzzle. Cheatwood ́s work leaves their meaning to be dissected by the viewer, inviting the individual to see what they want to see within them.

That’s Dallas Baby
Exhibition Dates: May 2 – June 16, 2019

Artual Gallery
Garden Eden Ground Floor
Fawzi Al Daouk Street, Downtown Beirut Lebanon