Stars and Strip Malls - Cover 3/4/04
Cover Photos by Kory Vergets
The Aura of Commercial Americana
Jason Chase´s Carnival showing a
whirlwind view of reality. - Photos by Kory Vergets
Harm and Hammer, another explosive oil
on canvas by Jason Chase.
Katie´s Gummies, oil on canvas,
on loan from the collection of Katie Johnston.
taste of nostalgia tinged with dark humor, one should drop in the
Harbor Art Gallery to see Jason Chase's visions of suburban America in
"Stars and Strip Malls." Using bold, bright splashes of color to repeat
the motifs of commercial America from the 1940s to the 1960s, we get a
somewhat darker and more cynical view of that time.
One particular piece I loved was Katie's
Gummie's, apolitical in
scope, but fun and vibrant. With layer upon layer of translucent,
brilliantly colored gummy bears, the painting seems so realistic that
viewers should restrain themselves from trying to lick the canvas.
However, Harm & Hammer doesn't try to
be nearly as cute. At
first glance, the image appears to be a hand holding an old-fashioned
glass soda bottle, in this case orange Crush, in front of a perfectly
innocuous looking advertisement for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. It's
the burning, soaked rag pouring out of the mouth of the bottle that
tips the viewer off to the fact that it is, indeed, a Molotov cocktail.
This gives a darker cant to the slogan above, "A house-full of uses!"
One gets the same feeling from the piece
Super Bang featuring what
looks like an upside-down light bulb but is actually a bomb, complete
with 48 shots. The most disturbing part is not the picture but that the
subject matter is actually a mock-up of a child's toy.
Others are more subtle, describing
typical suburban settings, such
as the parking lot in Suburban Landscape. This panoramic picture
features a strip mall dominating the background while a large SUV sits
in the foreground. It's one of the pieces that is easier on the mind,
showing an idealized version of normalcy: nearly cloudless blue skies
in a sunny and pristine setting.
In his artist's statement, Chase explains
the commercial slant in
his work, "Some of my earliest visual memories are the colors of the
cereal aisle flashing by me. Constant exposure to advertising slogans
and Saturday morning cartoons not only sold me products, it sold me the
power of the visual. It started an appetite that I still have for
bright, flashy, bold images that are familiar to anyone in reach for
Carnival shows a merry-go-round whirring
by in a blur of motion. A
little girl looks back, almost in fright it seems, shouting, while a
little boy looks ahead, waving his hands in the air in excitement. The
shadowy images of the horses are eerily mirrored outside the spatial
reality of the merry-go-round. Each of Chase's scenes appears to have a
second meaning if the viewer looks long enough.
Chase takes on the spectre of middle
America by making his logos and
bubbly motifs larger than life. In blowing up his visions of fantasy,
he mocks the very perfection that advertisers are always trying to push
on an avid, gullible populace.
"Because the images I use have so
completely saturated our lives, I
want everyone who sees my paintings to relate to them, to be engaged by
art and to contemplate the world they live in."
"Stars and Stripmalls" will be on display
until March 24 in the Harbor Art Gallery.