Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jim Isermann's Shag Painting from Collecting California

This work of art is featured in Laguna Art Museum's current permanent collection exhibition Collecting California: Selections from Laguna Art Museum, on view until January 17, 2010.

Jim Isermann was born in 1955 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He received a BFA at the University of Wisconsin in 1977 and his MFA at California Institute of the Arts in 1980. In the 1980s, Isermann created entire environments with rooms filled with furniture and decorative objects, all handcrafted. The contrast of moving from Wisconsin to California, and the experience of the modern architecture of the suburban, southern Californian landscape, influenced the environments he created. Isermann blends work done in the traditional sphere with the Bauhaus artists, influences from op art, and artists like Frank Stella and Larry Bell. In a succinct description of Isermann’s work, writer Dave Hickey states, “He may traffic in supergraphics and hot pink motel furniture, but Jim Isermann is, first and foremost, a California artist with Bauhaus tendencies, Minimalist agendas, and formalist precedents in the Abstract Classicism of John McLaughlin and Frederick Hammersley.”1


Untitled (Shag Painting) (1988), in the collection of the Laguna Art Museum, is the first painting in which Isermann used yarn that he hand-hooked. In this diptych, the left panel is a smooth enamel surface, with bold purple and orange swirls that encompass the entire panel. The background is divided by two colors, yellow and green. On the right panel, Isermann mirrors the form of the left with acrylic yarn, recalling the shag-carpet aesthetic that dominated domestic environments in the 1970s. Untitled (Shag Painting) creates a physical experience of movement that carries the tenuous balance of domestic and monumental scale.


~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum


1. Dave Hickey, Jim Isermann: Utopia Now, ex. brochure (Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2002).

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