Jonah Koppel’s recent paintings and a new series of drawings push aesthetic assumptions and issue challenges to notions of representation and abstraction, entertainment, and taste.
Koppel’s paintings feature incredibly worked surfaces that are multilayered and contain a variety of paints and textures, including color shift pigments that change from angle to angle. Although overtly abstract, they veer towards representation, referring to physical objects and recognizable patterns such as snakeskin and optical illusions. The paintings’ overall compositions and tone indirectly reference subcultures that have transformed into commercial aesthetics: everything from heavy metal, punk, techno, and goth paraphernalia to horror film props and blacklight posters.
The works on paper, meanwhile, venture more explicitly into the realm of imagery. Originally drawn in a series of sketchbooks as a kind of personal meditation on the power of images, the works – some on both sides of the page – depict a fantasy world of skull-faced nudes, knife wielding pharaohs, and modern sexual depravity. Working in a limited palette of reds, oranges, pinks, and blacks, Koppel references the language of low-grade printing and DIY publishing. While graphic, the drawings avoid didacticism, instead standing in as quotations that allude to the complexity of viewing images in the information age.