Please Trust Me
Closes Nov. 28
Jason Polan has a project under way to draw every single person in New York City. It’s probably safe to assume that it’s an ongoing project.
With that kind of ambition and a propensity for cranking out work in significant quantities, Polan might be expected to offer up a panoply of such images at his Lump show, now on view for one more day, this Saturday, Nov. 28.
However, the surprise here is that the show is dominated by photocopied reproductions, rather than the spunky little drawings for which the artist has become known. It feels like an illicit peek into the world of Polan’s drawing, focused through the clinical lens of his photocopy machine.
In this show, Polan maps out a few of his influences, as well as his general fascination with ephemera. The gallery’s north wall is plastered with 11-inch by 17-inch photocopies (166 of them by my count) that read like a vast constellational charting of inspirations and influences. Steve Martin, Jane Fonda, Cary Grant and Dolly Parton are a few of the celebrity portraits interspersed in a slew of vintage TV, magazine and newspaper advertisements, comics and cartoons. There’s more: Space Ghost and Spider-Man excerpts, photos of professional wrestlers, basketball players and a snake or two, as well.
A counterpoint to this tsunami wall of mass media are the 12 photocopies minimally installed on the opposite wall. These sheets contain varying close-ups of a wave image culled from somewhere in the popular press universe. Their presence is a balm, offering furtive contemplation suspended in a range of velvety blacks and grays. The rear portion of the gallery also contains a small set of original drawings and a wall-mounted mini-installation of original newspaper clippings with more ads, photos, sketches, postcards, a small doodle executed on a hotel notepad and a blank New York Public Library book request form.
This show is brimming with a restless, oddly intoxicating energy that could be described as bordering on the obsessive. It is artist-as-aesthetic sponge, seemingly powerless to resist taking in all that the abundance of pop visual culture has to offer: the good, the bad and the chintzy. Polan has managed to strike a curious balance between the fleeting and the iconic, the famous and the pedestrian, the glitzy and the mundane. His most significant accomplishment is that he has taken seemingly random things from everyday life, internalized them and made them into something highly personal. The downside to his working method is that a little too much tends to creep inalthough I imagine Polan’s editing process must be a grueling one.
In any event, the results we see in Lump Gallery demonstrate Polan’s skill at keeping the show honest and in check. Which is a good thing when it comes to work that is consistently and precariously hovering at the edge of bedlam.