Critics’ Picks

Jonathan Marshall, Quest of Sight, 2009, still from a color video, 29 minutes.


Jonathan Marshall

Art Palace
3913 Main Street
January 15–March 6

Inaugurating Art Palace’s new Houston home, Jonathan Marshall’s “Doubled Vision”––his second solo exhibition at the gallery––offers a new chapter in his homespun folk mythology. Quest of Sight, 2009, an almost thirty-minute-long video that is part western, part sci-fi epic, combines segments from the artist’s older videos with new footage shot in remote Texas locations. Nearly devoid of dialogue, the work introduces three self-styled adventurers fated to meet one another: Lenny, a mop-bearded nomad, played by Marshall; Johan Pilgrim, a ruggedly sexy cowboy; and Skelebones, a beach-dwelling witch doctor. Its quirky humor, DIY aesthetic, and digital interludes bring to mind a host of emerging video artists, such as Brian Bress, Matthew Morgan, and Shana Moulton.

Like that of the best of his contemporaries, Marshall’s vision coheres through a preoccupation with obsolete forms that extends to his drawings, prints, and sculptures. Dazzle camouflage, a bright geometric pattern used on World War I–era battleships to confuse enemy squadrons, is deployed throughout the show. It’s especially seductive in the tondo painting Nike, Adidas, Reebok, or Little Bangs in a Big Bang, 2009, which incorporates the pattern within the companies’ color palettes.

Failed modern technology, such as the Lunar Surface Gravimeter (a device used in the 1972 Apollo 17 space mission and intended to measure gravitational pull on the moon), is reconsidered as an untitled sculpture in the diptych Ambiguous Landscape Land Art Proposal Drawing, 2009. Discarded by astronauts on the moon’s surface, the gravimeter’s location is indicated by a blank rectangle in both a realistic rendering of the lunar landscape (left) and among a black-on-black razzle-dazzle pattern (right). Given Marshall’s richness of allusion and his whimsical spirit, one should be sure to catch the subsequent adventures of Lenny and Johan’s Quest.