Gonzo Museum shows off Jonathan Gold
If you haven’t yet met the misfit crew that lives in Jonathan Gold’s inventive artwork, now’s your chance.
Seventy of his works will be on display at the Gonzo Museum this fall, unveiled at an opening on Saturday, Oct. 13, with a reception from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The 24-year-old Aspen native, a 2010 graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, worked like mad over the last few months to prepare for the show — raiding his sketch books for ideas and creating a singular cast of oddball characters in rapidograph ink.
“I’ve been playing with a lot of characters,” Gold told me as he laid out the dozens of framed illustrations and prepared to hang them.
In a quick survey of Gold’s work, you’ll see recurring motifs of vice and death, with some animals, symbols like bottles, cigarettes and cartoon-tinged skulls — by turns grotesque, subversive and satirical.
There’s “America the Deadly,” a skeleton in a suit with drops of red and blue on a white background.
“He’s a politician,” the soft-spoken Gold says. “So he’s sort of like the walking dead.”
There’s “The Wicker Man,” a Dr. Suess-styled man, with a lighted candle in the crown of his head, wax melting down onto his tight-lined face like a fevered sweat, an enigmatic close-mouthed grimace on his face, in a tuxedo, lighting up the space around him with his own flame. And there’s “Mr. Malarky,” a gnome-like man captured in profile, reminiscent of Snow White’s dwarves, sporting a Sling Blade grimace and a Pinochio nose. And then there’s “Henry,” a black and white cartoon head, caught in mid-scream, on a swirling red backdrop, bloodshot eyes raised, with a bent cigarette bouncing off his lips.
The show has them each in frames, ranging from palm-sized to 14-by-18-ish. Framing and mounting the motley crew has lent them a new life and, sometimes, a different identity, Gold says.
“It’s one thing when it’s just in the corner of a notebook and it’s another when you put it in its own frame,” he says.
Many of his pieces are marked by ink splashmarks, hinting at the hand of the artist — a less abrasive version of Ralph Steadman’s iconic ink spatters. Gold points to Steadman as an influence, along with underground comic legend R. Crumb and painter/graffiti artist Barry McGee.
An installation by McGee in San Francisco inspired the way Gold and Gonzo Museum proprietor Daniel Joseph Watkins are hanging the show — all of the works hung tightly togetaher, with no wall space between, forming one massive constellation.
Gold has devoted anywhere from two to 20 hours into each of them, and while these 70 pieces differ in style and subject, they all seem to welcome a kind of everyday confusion and chaos. Gold’s artist statement puts it this way: “Pulp horror, punk rock, comic books and the oh-so enjoyable beer drinking, have shaped my world into one where all is at question and all can never be answered in full.”
Talented, ambitious and young artists like Gold have, for centuries, flocked to places where the rent is cheap and where like-minded bohemians can live for art. Aspen is not generally one of those places, and doesn’t have the sort of thriving underground arts scene where Gold might find his contemporaries.
But for Gold it is home and has proved to be fertile ground for his growing portfolio.
“Its a good place to start,” he says. “What’s cool about Aspen is people are into so many different things and developing themselves in different ways. Everyone’s really supportive.”
And, of course, artists hanging out in cafes in bohemia talking about art aren’t actually making art by doing that — the art is still something they’re doing mostly alone.
Gold, who works at Belly Up, made most of the pieces in his show on his coffee table at home.
Along with the Gonzo Museum show, Gold has picked up work drawing the DVD covers for the snowboard movies “One” and “Too,” along with occasional stickers, posters and business cards.
Until the Gonzo Museum came along this year — converted from legendary printmaker Tom Benton’s old studio space into a gallery in a short-term agreement with developers who are going to gut and remodel it — there were scant opportunities for emerging artists like Gold to show in Aspen.
“The galleries here are blue chips with well-known artists and they aren’t going to cater to up and coming artists,” Gold explains.
Watkins is giving such fresh faces a venue this fall, in the space where he’s previously shown mostly Benton. Gold’s show will be followed by one of Carbondale artist Stanley Bell’s work, with a planned opening on Nov. 30.
Watkins first came across Gold’s work in a show at the Radio snowboard shop, little more than a year ago. He’s since bought up a handful of Gold’s pieces — eight of the works hanging this weekend, in fact, already have been sold to various collectors — and encouraged him to make more of it. Watkins particularly took a shine to Gold’s animated skull and skeleton work.
“I kept saying, ‘More death! I want more death,’” Watkins laughs.
Gold’s unpretentious and boundary-pushing style, Watkins says, is right at home beside Benton in the Gonzo Museum.
“In my mind, Jon is the qunitissential artist,” says Watkins. “He’s out there on the edge, and he struggles, and his art is awesome. … It fits our vibe.”