JonMarc Edwards — Whitney May

June 1, 2007

To view a Jon­Marc Edwards work is to rec­og­nize its author imme­di­ately. The coher­ent sym­bolic vocab­u­lary estab­lished by this painter/sculptor/assemblage artist over the past decade and a half is, in more ways than one, entirely read­able. In his works, the artist con­sis­tently employs the signs mak­ing up the Eng­lish lan­guage as com­mu­ni­ca­tors of ideas, emo­tions and imagery by col­laps­ing into a sin­gle block of space each let­ter of a care­fully cho­sen word or phrase. Although at first glance the com­plex char­ac­ters fash­ioned by Edwards appear as unde­ci­pher­able as Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy to a West­erner, each becomes famil­iar upon any fur­ther inspec­tion. In the end, Edwards re-contextualizes and suc­cess­fully makes for­eign the very sig­nage with which we, as read­ers of the Eng­lish lan­guage, are most famil­iar. He forces the viewer to reassess and to recon­sider the way in which he or she gleans mean­ing from the arbi­trary letter-age with which we are so accustomed.

Jon­Marc has stated of his work that, “If you decide to read or decode the char­ac­ters that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you have ‘fig­ured out’ the work. It means you have deci­phered the con­scious layer.” This is par­tic­u­larly evi­dent in works like his Burn­ing Bridge as dis­played at Con­tem­po­rary Istan­bul this win­ter. In this case, to just decode or read the com­pressed char­ac­ter made up of the let­ters in the word “bridge” is hardly com­pa­ra­ble to the myr­iad of con­no­ta­tions avail­able to some­one famil­iar with the idea of the phrase “to burn one’s bridges.” With this asso­ci­a­tion, the image pre­sented by Edwards not only com­mu­ni­cates the mean­ing behind a sim­ple word or phrase, but also that behind a larger, more com­plex idea and sub­con­scious human anxiety.

In the exam­ple of other works by Edwards such as his Cheer­leader (War) the human fig­ure enters his oeu­vre, and with a polit­i­cal bang. Here, the cheer­leader is com­prised of com­pressed char­ac­ters spelling out, among other things, the word “war.” Pom poms drip aggres­sively out­ward and “war char­ac­ters” radi­ate from her fea­ture­less face. The resul­tant art­work exclaims much on frus­trated atti­tudes towards current-day vio­lence, and per­haps even more on gov­ern­ment authority.

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