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An artist whose works escapes any singular style categorisation, Jonas Wood’s colourful, intricate paintings are instantly recognisable. Of his work he has said 'I’m interested in exploring the spaces that I’ve inhabited and the psychological impact they’ve had on me and my memories of them…and then I can create a new memory of that space.'
Wood was born in Boston, and grew up surrounded by his grandfather’s art collection containing works by Francis Bacon, Alexander Calder, Jim Dine, Robert Motherwell, Larry Rivers and Andy Warhol. In 1999 he graduated with a BA from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York, majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art. He then attended the University of Washington, Seattle, where he received an MFA in painting and drawing in 2002.
As a student Wood worked primarily in collage, making photographic montages using images of himself, his friends and their environment.
Wood’s later and better known work has grown from this technique - his painted canvases have been compared to Cubism in the way they show a scene or an object from more than one viewpoint. Wood uses photography to assemble this multi perspective composition before creating the image in paint.
Jonas Wood has seen enormous success across the globe over the past decade, with work being shown in major cities and galleries across the world. His first solo exhibition was hosted by the Hammer Museum in LA in 2010. Following this he created a series of public artworks and murals in New York in 2014 and then at the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA in 2016. In 2015 Wood exhibited alongside his wife Shio Kusaka at Gagosian Hong Kong. The show was called Blackwelder and marked the first time the couple exhibited their work side by side. In 2019 The Dallas Museum put on Wood’s first major retrospective, showing 33 of his artworks.
Wood’s work is also held in some major public collections, including those of the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, The Saatchi Gallery in London and New York’s MOMA and Guggenheim museums.
Wood often works in distinct categories, grouped by accompanying or retrospective catalogues. Interiors (2012) groups work depicting interior spaces; Pots (2015) shows the pots painted throughout his career until this point - flattened vessels in bright, simple colours. Portraits (2016) details portraits of Wood’s friends and family while Clippings (2017) shows his work depicting stems, leaves, and flowers.
Wood’s brightly coloured canvases and distinctive style make much of his work easily recognisable, created with bold line work, flattened forms and vibrant colour.
Wood draws influence from the past, from other artist’s work, and from his lived environment. Often his work is compared to Cubism in the way it uses multiple viewpoints to portray a single object or environment, or Pop Art in the way he simplifies colour and form, creating bright and bold imagery from life.
Wood shares a studio space with wife and artist Shio Kusaka, and the pair often draw from each other’s work in their practise; indeed, many of the pots in Wood’s work are inspired by the work of Kusaka. Often the couple are inspired by other artists whose work appears in their own collection, including Alighiero Boetti, Michael Frimkess and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Mark Grotjahn, and Ed Ruscha. The couple have also been said to reference their children’s storybooks and drawings in their work.
Wood’s palette is simple and bright, using simplified form and bold lines. Sometimes he shows an object in isolation, but more complicated compositions or environments are often built in a fragmented, layered style, offering up the subject of his artwork from a number of different angles. This style is often compared with cubist painting, and shows a direct evolution from the artist’s earlier photographic collage work.
Wood’s 2017 artwork Large Shelf Still Life shows many different shaped and styled pots positioned along multiple shelves and on the floor. The colours used are generally bright but simple, little shading or texture is used and occasionally an object will be afforded a black outline. The effect brings the viewer in and out of an almost cartoon-like aesthetic. A similar effect is created in Wood’s 2013 artwork Ovtiz’s Library, where the artist uses multi-viewpoint perspective, clean lines and single depth colour to create geometric order.
Originally majoring in psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Wood has talked about consciously exploring spaces that he has existed in and objects he has experienced, and the psychological impact these have on his memory of spaces, objects and times in his life. On a basic level he is painting things he has seen, but he is also exploring his experience of that space, object or time through his art.
Wood has said 'You could call [my work] a visual diary or even a personal history. I’m not going to paint something that doesn’t have anything to do with me. Of all of the possible things I could paint, the thing that interests me is something that I can get close enough to in order to paint it honestly.'
Jonas Wood’s work continues to ascend in price, both on the primary and secondary markets. His work has been included in an average of 11 shows per year in the last ten years, most of them commercial, and continues to achieve high values on the secondary market. The highest value achieved for a Jonas Wood artwork at auction was US$6.5m in 2021.