Canada is pleased to present 5 Seasons by Jason Fox, the artist’s third solo show with the gallery. The title alludes to The Seasons paintings by Jasper Johns or references a potential fifth season due to global warming. It could also be a nod to the lifespan of a tv show, the fifth season of Seinfeld, for example. The paintings are a compilation of figures dissolving into and emerging out of one another. Fox employs a standardized format for this show: large verticals that recall royal court portraiture. His subjects include George Harrison, Jennifer Lawrence, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, and a cartoonish dragon that, when piled together, create a sense of distorted history. Fox is less concerned with capturing a likeness than defining reality.
The paintings are painted thinly with attention paid to creating depth and surface through various effects including Ab-Ex spatters and quirky rolls of tin foil applied to the surfaces. The European features an image of George Harrison casually posing with a hand in his pocket as he turns into a skeleton with demon wings. In Get Out of Me, a dragon, George Harrison and Jennifer Lawrence blend creating a charged feeling of beauty, crude humor, and horror. Feet feature heavily in the paintings, such as in The Siren, where perfect high-heeled feet anchor the Jennifer Lawrence/dragon/Joni Mitchell strumming a guitar figure onto terra firma. The Patriot is a version of a painting Fox has painted before: a Freddy Kruger-like character in an American flag hockey mask, his arms raised in a crucifixion or “don’t shoot” posture surrounded by totemic images of our times including the Chase bank logo, an uppercase Q, and the notorious Cattelan banana hanging in the air like the aura of a crazed everyman.
The content of Fox's art includes his disdain for American power structures. It is tempting to say that the paintings haven’t changed that much, but the world has and made the paintings look nearly photorealistic. Once upon a time, in Fox’s estimation, our politics ran on a gentleman’s agreement that pantomimed left/right dialectics but was ultimately a system committed to the status quo of winner takes all capitalism and a brutally opportunistic foreign policy. Recently, as one major U.S. political party has become openly racist, nativist, and willing to flirt with canceling democracy, the veil has been ripped off Pax Americana. Fox’s work exposes the rawness of the now in a way that feels like something other than propositional. It is terror. But it is also angelic in the guise of Joni Mitchell, George Harrison, and Puff the Magic Dragon. Holding these extremes at the same time is what gives the paintings power.
How do Fox’s paintings gather such disparate and wide-ranging source material and present such various attitudes about public life? For all its talk of peace and love and desire for radical political and social change, the pieties of the 1960’s have become a face-saving illusion for people who now run the world. There’s an old joke about the New Left radicals of the Baby Boomer generation in Germany that goes something like this: in 1973, seven members of the Red Army Faction got life in prison for murder and terrorism. The rest of the generation—their comrades in arms—got BMWs and comfortable homes in the suburbs. History painting, hardly a popular genre currently, finds new uses in Fox’s hands. In ways similar to Velasquez, who both documented and pilloried the Habsburg court, Fox manages to simultaneously hold a mirror up to and critique our times, pointing out the crazy excesses and empty mythologies that animate American culture today.
In conjunction with this show, Canada is pleased to publish Jason Fox: Drawings, a monograph highlighting the artist’s varied and rigorous drawing practice.
Jason Fox (b. 1964, Yonkers, New York; lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Canada, New York (2021, 2017); David Kordansky, Los Angeles (2020), and Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels (2018). Recent group exhibitions include shows at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York (2021); Almine Rech Gallery, Shanghai (2021); Different Strokes, Almine Rech Gallery, London (2021); Samaritans, Eva Presenhuber Gallery, New York (2019); Animal Farm, Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2017); Rien faire et laisser rire, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels (2013); and Contemporary Surrealist Drawings from Rotterdam, Collection Boijmans Van Beuningen, Institut Néerlandais, Paris (2012).