Los Angeles

Jamison Carter, Portal, 2020, marker on urethane, 45 1/2 × 63".

Jamison Carter, Portal, 2020, marker on urethane, 45 1/2 × 63".

Jamison Carter

Klowden Mann

In the months just prior to Covid-19 rearing its monstrous head in the United States, artist Jamison Carter lost both of his parents. Such a tragedy, combined with the horrors and isolation brought on by the pandemic, would crush even the most stalwart of souls. Yet Carter miraculously managed to find the wherewithal to produce “All Season Radials,” his majestic solo exhibition at Klowden Mann.

Carter’s new sculptures in this presentation—freestanding, wall-mounted, and floor-based—were rife with melancholy, mandalas, and cosmic mysteries. They were made primarily from dark urethane resin and featured meticulously rendered marker drawings transferred onto their surfaces. The artist’s references for these works are seemingly endless: from Coptic icons and tantra paintings to pictures of the Cat’s Eye Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the hallucinatory illustrations by Anglican mystic Robert Fludd. Portal (all works 2020), a wall piece, has a multihued and elaborately patterned radial at its center: A splash of flash-bang rays zip out from a foliate heart. This object—with its dazzling array of blues, pinks, greens, and golds—calls to mind the Tibetan Buddhist sipé khorlo (wheel of life) and the exquisite sand paintings of Losang Samten, a former monk who studied under the current Dalai Lama. Time similarly evokes the eternal turning of the universe with its golden-white eye, which looks something like a daisy girded by red, silver, and cobalt spokes. Time’s starflowers transform into trapezoids and rhombi that, to my mind, quote the geometric tessellations of sixteenth-century Islamic art and architecture, such as those found in the mihrab of the Jami Masjid mosque at Fatehpur Sikri in India, or in the shamsa paintings of imperial Mughal albums.

Carter’s encounters with death drew him to imagery that merges the symbols of world religions with scientific photographs of the universe. His work makes us wonder whether or not each of us is subject to a divine plan. His art underlines our mortality while offering up different ways to process it. Yet in this age of racial, religious, and ethnic trauma, it seems that he should dig deeper into his sources and offer insights—or at least more questions—about these cross-cultural resonances, so as to avoid the hazards of absorbing and nullifying nonwhite or non-Christian traditions into Western modes of thinking. A more visible sense of unease over this kind of sampling would trouble the work in more enriching ways.

Carter raises the ghosts of his parents with two sculptures that functioned as the show’s centerpieces. Father rest is a floor-based work of a dead body hidden by a shroud overlaid with a delicate constellation of celestial bodies. Disturbingly, the covering appears to shrink-wrap—or parasitically attach to?—the corpse. The work reminded me of Aleister Crowley’s belief that “every man and woman is a star.” Mother husk, however, is an erect and more imposing object rendered in black-and-gold resin, embedded with pink-glass spheres and embellished with drawn-on orbs and asteroids. It looks like a reptile, a charred Boschian beast, or an ancient deity. The figure stands awkwardly in the space while gazing upward. Her back is turned away from her companion—I hope not forever.