Known for his basketball prints and paintings, Los Angeles artist Jonas Wood is one of the art world's most recognised stars. His art, a vibrant fusion of 20th-century modernisms, autobiographically explores aspects of contemporary American life.Read More
Born in 1977 in Boston, Jonas Wood's father was an architect, and his grandfather and avid art collector who possessed works by Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon. Both would influence his artistic interests.
Wood initially studied psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York graduating with a BA in 1999. Taking up work in a research lab enabled the budding artist to support his painting practice until he took up an MFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of Washington in Seattle. Graduating in 2002 Wood then worked as an assistant to American painter Laura Owens building on top of his grad school education.
In 2002 Jonas Wood also married Japan-born ceramicist Shio Kusaka. Many crossovers can be found in the couple's respective artworks, as both have often appropriated and been inspired by each other's motifs.
Jonas Wood's drawings, paintings, collage, and prints cross multiple genres including portrait, still life, landscape, and architecture. He weaves the essence of 20th-century modern traditions with his own hard-edged, quasi-abstract cut-out style.
In a conceptual sense, Wood follows early Pop Art's focus on reinvigorating an interest in the everyday things that we overlook, though his approach is less commercial and more personal than Pop Art's.
The artist's imagery is comprised of his day-to-day surroundings. In works such as Group Portrait (2004) and MSF Fish Pot #7 (2016) Wood has incorporated the work and interests of his wife, the Japan-born ceramicist Shio Kusaka. Sharing a studio with her in Culver City, California, many of the artist's myriad paintings of plant pots and other ceramic vessels are modelled on Kusaka's work.
Wood's process typically begins with a collage of photographs that he simplifies into drawn compositions. Space and depth in the artist's artworks are created purely with flat planes of colour and lines. The resulting disconcerting sense of compressed space harks back to the work of the 20th-century modernists he cites as influences, particularly Henri Matisse, who he has made direct visual reference to in works such as Red Pot with Lute Player #2 (2018).
The fractured plains of the Cubists and the minimal, colourful planar approach to portraits reflect the work of Wood's other proclaimed influences: Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Wayne Thiebaud, and Alex Katz.
Sport has been a dominant feature of Wood's work ever since he began making drawings of isolated basketballs and pinning them up on the wall in the mid-2000s. Wood shows his obsessive passion for basketball in works such as Floating Orange Ball (2014), which also pays homage to Jeff Koons' sculpture One Ball Total Equilibrium (Spalding Dr J Silver Series) (1985). The artist avidly watches games and listens to sports commentary or has it running in the background while he works.
Wood has referenced tennis in paintings, drawings and prints since 2011. Watching tennis matches while he works, the artist has painted numerous tennis courts. In the print series 'Four Majors' (2018), Wood portrays the courts of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments in vibrant multi-colour screenprints.
Sometimes Wood's selected everyday elements are jarringly recombined into works such as Collaboration Appropriation 4 (2015), which brings together the artist's plants and basketball motifs in a surreal composition set against a neutral background.
Wood has also made numerous scenes of architectural exterior and interiors. Schindler Apts (2013) portrays the iconic Los Angeles architecture the artist visits with his architect father when he comes to the city.
Woods interior scenes, such as Alexis' Room (2014), Jungle Kitchen (2017), and Jersey City Apartment (2019), are often characterised by distorted perspectives and an abundance of domestic objects–particularly pot plants.
Wood has upscaled his work several times for public spaces. In 2014, Wood designed two large scale works for public billboards: Shelf Still Life for High Line Art's High Line Billboard in New York, and a work for the LAXART Billboard and Facade in Los Angeles. Jonas Wood's monumental mural Still Life with Two Owls (MOCA) made in 2017 covered the facade of the, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Jonas Wood has been the subject of gallery and institutional solo exhibitions and group exhibitions globally.
Jonas Wood solo exhibitions include: Jonas Wood, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas TX (2019); Jonas Wood: Still Life With Two Owls, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Los Angeles (2016); Clippings, Lever House, New York (2013); Hammer Projects: Jonas Wood, The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010).
The artist's exhibitions include: Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, Davis CA (2021); One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (2018); Shio Kusaka and Jonas Wood, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, Netherlands (2017); Los Angeles: A Fiction, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, France (2017); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney's Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); More Young Americans, Hotel de Miramion, Paris (2013); Abstract America, Saatchi Gallery, London (2009).
Jonas Wood's art for sale at auction often fetches prices in the millions of dollars. In 2021, Two Tables with Floral Pattern (2013) sold at Sotheby's for US$6.51 million, far exceeding the high estimate and previous records for Jonas Wood auction sales.
Jonas Wood's Instagram can be found here.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2022