Jonathan Lyndon Chase does not paint self-portraits. But in every stroke and atom of his prismatic, distressed and lyrically visceral mixed-media portraits, the artist embodies his own sense of self, both literally and figuratively constructing complex aspects of personal identity right before your eyes.
The 28-year-old, Philadelphia-based artist has just opened his first major solo exhibition in Los Angeles, home to his new powerhouse gallery representation, Hollywood’s Kohn Gallery. It’s a huge moment in Chase’s career, and the affecting, engaging and original work on display in the show, “Sheets,” lives up to the moment.
As a gay black man, aware at all times of existing as a “minority within a minority,” Chase has developed a unique aesthetic style characterized by an eclectic assortment of materials and mediums, a wide array of techniques, and influences ranging from Romare Bearden to Francis Bacon, Alison Saar to Kerry James Marshall.
Chase's depictions of individuals and pairs of figures, very often attractive gay men of color, are rendered using painting, drawing, collage, digital media, watercolor, pastel, oil stick, glitter, marker, charcoal, pen and pencil. The way he contours a face or a body can range from the richly textured to the translucent and ethereal, even within the same composition.
More than intense chromatic and narrative visual poetry, more than lovely images of lovely men, the way Chase practices his art embodies an analogous psychic process — that of forging one’s own public and private persona in the continuum of a non-binary existence such as his own. Seeing race and gender as performed social constructs, in Chase’s art he intuitively selects a variety of elements from which to build his art as he has built himself.
The volatile visual and material juxtapositions represent a related psychosocial dynamic of duality — between inner and outer lives, private and public spaces, history and experience. Viewing the body as an archive of memories in much the same way as the canvas is a compendium of mark-making, Chase offers a visual expression of the invisible operations of his heart and mind, making the world as he makes his way through it.
Kohn Gallery, 1227 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood; (323) 461-3311, kohngallery.com. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Editor's note: Leaders from L.A. Pride helped curate content showcasing the local LGBT community for the June 8-14 issue of L.A. Weekly.