Meditations in Green
Jack W. Schneider’s show explores the color scheme of 1980s America
Published: December 12, 2012
Jack W. Schneider
Through Dec. 22
Green may be the color of our era. We talk now about “going green” to mean living in a more environmentally friendly way. And while this metaphorical use of the color has become big business—bringing in the other metaphorical green—the use of color in marketing is nothing new. In 1907, the Paint Manufacturers Association of America sent out a memo claiming that, “If we can guide or educate the taste of the house-mistress in respect to the colors in which her dwelling is to be clad, we control the entire situation.”
More recently, color specialist Leslie Harrington, a member of the Color Marketing Group, has been credited with the recent popularity of “wasabi” and other yellow-green colors.
These are the same colors that dominate Jack W. Schneider’s solo show at sophiajacob, and the research into the uses of colors for marketing is relevant because Schneider’s show is a conscious riff on the prevalence of bright yellow-greens in his youth, the 1980s.
This becomes clear as one walks to the back of the gallery to find a case of artifacts from the period that act as a key to understanding the show: a can of Surge cola, a crushed can of Mountain Dew, a poster for Aliens, a Newport cigarette ad, Ghostbusters, a broken skateboard with a green truck, and a copy of a book on Yves Klein. Though Surge may offer the greatest insight into Schneider’s palette, the Klein book is a clue to his thinking. Klein was famous for his use of a bright blue, which he patented and named Yves Klein Blue.
There is no way that Schneider could patent this green, because it is too prominent in popular culture. But that seems to be his point. Moving through the gallery—which, though small, still seems sparsely populated by Scheider’s paintings—one is confronted by a wide variety of artistic styles which share little more than color scheme, though even this varies from the deep, leafy green of “GP 12-11” to fluorescent hue of “GP 12-24.” (All of the paintings are called “GP” for, you guessed it, green painting.)
The characteristics of lines in over half the paintings are also derived from the imagery of the 1980s. The entire back wall—“GP 12-24” through “GP 12-29”—deploy the rounded, graffiti-like lines of Keith Haring. “GP 12-46” is a complex op-art style grid of intersecting black, green, red, yellow, and purple lines (although the overall effect is green). Its accordioned visual effect is at once jarring and soothing, invoking the video game Q-Bert and blacklight stoner posters. The gloppy liquid plastic dripping off of “GP 12-53” recalls Toxic Avengers and Swamp Thing as well as the green slime one used to buy from gumball machines.
The harsh black lines on the green background of “GP 12-55” have an urban, military quality, evoking the Berlin Wall and the Cold War. It is one of the strongest individual pieces in the show, because the power comes not from its inclusion with a number of other green paintings, but from its own composition. The same can be said for “GP 12-19,” a Rothko-esque blur of green and black on the wall beside it.
Most of the individual works don’t hold up as paintings. With a few exceptions, if any of these “GP” works were taken out of the context of the others, it would seem slight, thrown together, and lacking both vision and craftsmanship. While the accompanying text points to the artist’s “playful and mischievous attitude,” we could not find it. It is all too hip in the art-world to claim to be playful, even when one is not. It is the easy answer for one’s decisions. There is nothing at all playful about the show; instead, it is a cool examination of a color, more scientific than surrealist. And what better medium for such an examination than painting.
Though many of the individual works in sophiajacobs’ first out-of-town show fall flat, we don’t have to see, or judge, them individually and we don’t have to think of them as whimsical or playful in order for the total effect to be important. The titles make it clear that the “GP”s are to be conceived as part of a series undertaken as a serious meditation on the color green, and in that light, the show is a success.
The gallery’s statement claims that, “For Jack, these hues have become a way to represent otherness that is outside the corporeal or natural order; they allude to the supernatural or superhuman,” but when one leaves sophiajacob’s Franklin Street storefront, one is bombarded by the variety of greens in the world, natural and supernatural. (Well, I would use the word “extra-natural,” since supernatural already has other connotations that one doesn’t generally associate with the green of toxic sludge.) That effect, as one walks down the street, shows the artistic and philosophical value of the intense studies of color and makes one wish that we would pay as much attention—and money—to these sorts of studies as we do to those of the Color Marketing Group.
> Email By Baynard Woods