January 21, 2009

Jake Longstreth

The ethos of the American landscape has been and continues to be a subject of great fascination among thinkers in any field or interest. The country's flora and fauna intrigue even the most oblivious due to their extreme diversity and limitlessness. It is of little surprise then that an artist, in this case, painter Jake Longstreth, has chosen the American landscape as the launching-off point for his artistic practice, presenting a subtle uniqueness in his approach to the subject matter. Currently exhibiting at Gregory Lind Gallery in San Francisco is Longstreth's latest series of paintings titled, All It Is: New Paintings. All it is, really, is a series of nine paintings, mostly of manufactured landscapes that makeup American suburbia. But it's what it is not which Longstreth captures in his apolitical, flat acrylic paintings.

Empty parking lots, finely manicured grass on the side of the highway, construction debris in front of an erecting shopping center, and a Walgreen's drive-thru pharmacy are typical sites of everyday American life that are often overlooked. Longstreth draws attention to these under recognized and uninviting real spaces, questioning notions of consumerism and constructed landscapes. Clocking myriad hours among the highways and byways of a vast Americana, Longstreth has captured inevitably overlooked suburban settings in numerous photographs (compiled in appealing book form at Gregory Lind Gallery). Extracting ideas from his photographs, while not necessarily painting them verbatim, Longstreth's flat color block and geometrical lines enhance the simplicity and loneliness within these structures.

In Small Town In-Ground, a cool blue public swimming pool sits, patiently waiting to chill off neighborhood families on a hot summer's day. Simple geometric lines outline the built concrete structures while trees in the background assure a patina of a life lived closer to "nature," and the dichotomies of painting styles Longstreth employs speak of the manufactured in conjunction with the natural.

One work of particular interest is of a newly built shopping center, much like any Wal-Mart or Target seen in Anytown, USA. The building is depicted from the front, and the stucco facade is carefully highlighted with strong lines with each pillar and chip of paint emphasized. A pile of construction debris lies in front of the structure, orange cones peeping out from behind dirt mounds, adding color and life to the benign scene. The painting is satirically titled Rome, and it edifies Longstreth's conception of America as a great empire imploding from within. The sad and sullen emptiness that exists in Longstreth's spaces speak to an American dream gone flat.

All It Is is on view until January 31, 2008 at Gregory Lind Gallery.