Flower Power? Jim Isermann at Mary Boone

Through next week, Mary Boone is presenting more than a dozen of Jim Isermann’s pieces from the mid to late 1980s and one work from 1993. Isermann belongs to that influential second generation of LA artists who graduated from CalArts in the late 1970s, but, unlike his contemporaries who were absorbed with postmodernist strategy, Isermann was obsessed with super graphics from the 1960s and 70s. The centerpiece of the show (although strangely installed in a cramped side room) is the 1985 Flower Seating Group, a construction of five painted, plywood-framed, lawn-chair-webbed supports, facing out toward the gallery, surrounding five petal shaped tables. A Flower Ceiling Pendant Light and a Flower Painting, both adjunct components of the original 1986 installation, are also included. (NOTE: Don’t sit in the chairs. Although Isermann originally designed them as furniture for a gallery, now the chairs are to be apprehended as an art object. Do not touch!) The Shag Paintings pair latch hook Orlon acrylic yarn panels with hard edge geometric enamel panels, linking his work to the debates about craft that were generated by the feminist contingent.

The press materials assert that “while these works resonate with the best populist examples of Super Graphics, they never settle for being retrograde. The works take as their starting point the most elementary of geometric and coloristic units: they are as aesthetically persuasive as the best manifestations of geometric art of the last century.”

Are they? I’m not so sure. Isermann didn’t take the work far enough–for me they read as nostalgic totems from my childhood home, and they probably did back in the day, too. Where are the paper dresses?

Jim Isermann: Reunion,” Mary Boone, New York, NY Through February 4, 2012.


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