Free to Flow

An L.A. transplant’s solo show colorfully illustrates the joy of controlled improvisation

Four years ago, Los Angeles artist Jason Adkins abandoned the meticulously painted surfaces of his early “finish fetish” work. “It got old trying to keep canvases and sculptures perfect,” the 38-year-old recalls. So he set aside an impressive body of work executed in that ultra-controlled style to embark on a new path, one that has seen him become “looser with my process.”

For the newly transplanted Las Vegan who just opened his first solo show here, there’s no need to look back. Align & Prosper, at Pop Up Art House, showcases his dual artistic nature and his knack for color and precisely moderated disarray.

This collection in this large gallery space ranges from three large wood sculptures made from stacked crating materials that Adkins has salvaged to two immense acrylic-on-wood-panel paintings of similar size that face off on opposite walls. What gives it all a cohesive power is the dominant horizontal line present in each piece, reining in and grounding the vivid hues in this expansive gallery space.

“Yellow Stack,” for example, is a sculpture consisting of nine rebuilt crates piled high with precision. Between each layer there is a narrow space, with a rectangular void at the center. Unfinished, rough sawn edges, nails, warps and splits in the wood grain animate the surface, which is doused in a coat of sunny yellow.

Like “Clutch,” an almost-square construction of 10 layers—half intense red-orange, the rest in periwinkle—the sculpture bears a slight resemblance to I Ching hexagrams rendered in 3-D, with alternating long and short lines. “Throne,” on the other hand, is bulkier, consisting of rectangular boxes stacked in three levels, painted in bands of slightly metallic copper and turquoise.

The paintings complement the sculptures but offer up some surprises of their own. What’s unexpected is the apparently sleek surfaces of “Thrush” and “Backlash,” which dissolve upon closer inspection. The paintings reveal a texture not unlike orange peel that is strikingly evident on “Thrush” due to the sheen of the silvery-gray paint. Narrow horizontal stripes show the irregular dripping and pooling of paint that dried along the taped-off lines, making for uneven edges. Both paintings lean against the walls, and this unbalancing act underscores their appeal. It throws the relentless stability of the show subtly out of whack.

In Las Vegas, Adkins is at home, happy to engage in “treasure hunts to find big crates” than to be another painter in L.A. As well, he’s found an appropriate venue for his work here, too. The simplicity and thoughtful arrangement of his show at Pop Up Art House is exemplary, giving each piece the space it needs to be fully appreciated. What a welcome relief from the visual fatigue caused by the unbridled and often misguided enthusiasm of curators who think more is more.

This show is about rebuilding from debris, taking some chances and putting it all back together again in a new way. Las Vegas can sure use a dose of that again. The Align & Prosper title suggests feng shui and the proper alignment of structures at specific locations, which, if properly executed, can let abundance of all kinds flow. Las Vegas can use some of that, too. Start with Align & Prosper, an improvisation confined within precise parameters, for which Adkins is especially suited. It looks like a good match all around.

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