James Meyer monograph - 2005

Images Arrested

James Meyer's painting tends to sneak up on you. Though visually impactful, the work has for years drawn its material from the peculiar pauses in life that often pass unnoticed. Meyer occupies the idle morning perusal of messages on a cereal box, the sleepiness of a lone, neon bathed driver passing a gas station, the pause of a child behind a tree in a game of moonlit hide-and-seek. It could not be called introspection, or self-examination - it is more a sense that the subject has suddenly moved to a private and unsuspected part of their mind, for perhaps only a brief second. It turns out that these moments are pivotal. In the paintings, they are recognized as ceremonies loaded with personal significance. Lush color and open brushwork invests them with a paradoxical speed and urgency. The surfaces are unusual and inventively wild within a carefully ordered composition. Meyer has always mapped his work on universal systems of measurement - he has used the abstract laws of physics, of American mass marketing, and of astronomy as an underlying grid for his idiosyncratic meditations. The effect is of a passionate, almost totemic, investment within a cool, objective rubric.

On view in this show are three matched pairs of encaustic and watercolor paintings that continue the theme. The universal frame here is mythology, imposed on or adopted by children. Each piece is full of animal motion - arrested both by the painter's eye and by the sudden label at the bottom that marks the behavior as a brand of ancient heroism - or as an ancient problem. The children occupy their roles with a loose zeal that underscores the heaviness of the hovering titles.

The pairs have identical compositions, executed in the same loose hand, though in different media and colors. The doubling reinforces the sense of stopped time, and links up social myths with contemporary conventions of image production, such as photography and brand labels. But Meyer's investment in these issues is not just conceptual. The identical compositions show the digesting of the mechanical through his own hand and through his media, with the result that, by a sort of layered mismatch with the deeply ingrained look of mechanical images etched in our eyes, we get to look at a painting and enjoy a real sense of its physicality.

- Sarah Davis

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