Jason Gringler’s Bushwick studio is pristine except for some pieces of shattered plexi glass strewn across the floor. Although there are different kinds of work happening in the studio, it is the plexi constructions that catch my attention first. My eye is drawn to them because of Gringler’s craft and use of materials which are, for the most part, either transparent or reflective, ranging from plexi-glass and mirror to aluminum tape and clear resin. The smooth crystalline surfaces of these pieces are alluring, but beneath the exterior lies a drama that is much darker and more disturbing.
The plexi substrata is composed of material that is physically battered and abused, revealing trace evidence of violence and aggression, which in turn accentuates the physical act of production. Large areas of the under layer consist of shattered mirror partially shrouded in black spray paint, punctuated by slivers of color. The viewer’s own fractured reflection becomes part of the work. Gringler wants the viewer to be conscious of the act of looking, and perhaps to dismantle the viewer’s illusion of order and completeness as well; but Gringler is also playing a game of push/pull. First he lures you in, and then just as quickly shuts you out with a big X that sits squarely in the middle of the composition, subdividing and emphasizing the fragmentary nature of the work. The X is actually part of the wood stretcher frame, so the structure informs the composition; it is both efficient and confrontational in the way that it supports and obstructs visual access to the whole.
Looking across the studio I see the newest work hanging on the wall. There is a row of minimal glass/steel works that are a bit smaller in scale and more inviting than their darker counterparts. Here the work consists of shattered, bubbling and scraped material. Again, Gringler’s use of transparent substances reveals the physical depth and the structure, so the frame becomes an integral part of the composition, dictating the borders and confining the innards of the painting that seemingly want to ooze out beyond these perimeters. But here there is no cross bar; there is no X. The inherent strength of the steel frame allows for a more sparingstructure, creating more space and fluidity in the interior. Pared down to its essence the steel/glass works collage blunt and tough geometries together through icy layers. They are quiet and contemplative.
I step back and look around. It is clear that Gringler is preoccupied with the studio; with its materials and with the process of making. An all-encompassing process turns in on itself, obsessing and consuming itself. Even his workbenches become sculptures in the end. The mirrored surfaces are scarred from his process of creating, destroying and rebuilding the other works. They not only contain a physical history of the studio process, but also hold images of the completed works within their reflection; copies of copies. All these works face and reflect each other in the studio. The construction of the workbench, its use, and the eventual transformation into an assemblage sculpture is not only an interesting idea, but also a compelling object – severe, assertive and iconic in nature. After standing the workbench on its end, Gringler affixes slender tubes of fluorescent light to the broad and mirrored surface, producing different configurations of the cross; sometimes perpendicular, and sometimes off kilter.
At first glance I would understand if someone associated Gringler’s work with new gothic art and the likes of Banks Violette, but really, his work is the antithesis to this. It’s not looking out to popular culture for its cues; instead, it internalizes its process and its references, looking deeply inward.
This loop of inward looking is completed by the self-cannibalizing photo-collage pieces. Small, elegant and minimal, these works document the studio and its activities and so, like the workbenches, the collages contain a history of the studio process. The X motif resurfaces in the collages as do other geometries that intentionally disrupt the image. The collages reflect and regurgitate their own materials and make the viewer complicit in an act of voyeurism.
Gringler’s visual trajectories ensnare the viewer in a labyrinth of recycling, reflections and copies. He has created a complete visual language that seems to trap a haunting white noise under the surface. This is a mimetic language that stutters, repeats and consumes itself. Somehow, the artist is the only thing absent from the work. There is evidence of his interaction with the materials, yet the work exists autonomously within its own self-referential world. It is a microcosm that seems to stand in for something larger, reflecting elements of our self-consuming and narcissistic culture. This language is beautiful and complex; it extols and damns itself with its own internal gaze.
Jason Gringler’s work is on view at Angell Gallery, Toronto from October 4th to November 9th
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Sarah Elise Hall is a New York-based artist and writer. Her work has been exhibited with Janinebean Gallery (Berlin), the Drabinsky Gallery (Toronto), MUSE CPMI Center for Photography and the Moving Image ( New York), Islip Art Museum, ( Islip, NY) and Galerija Zvono ( Belgrade). Her work has been reviewed in Toronto’s National Post and Toronto Star, New York’s Huffington Post, and included in Michael Petry’s book, Nature Morte, published by Thames & Hudson Press.