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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Exhibition Review | Michael Pajon, 'Palimpsest' | Gambit New Orleans

MICHAEL PAJON, A Beat of the Heart, A Flick of the Tongue, 2013, mixed media collage on antique book cover

Review: Palimpsest
By D. Eric Bookhardt

Hindsight has a way of offering a new view of human experience. Life in the moment can be a hustle, sometimes exhilarating but often oscillating between frantic and boring. Collage artists enjoy an Olympian perspective that enables them to utilize the symbols and icons of the past for their own purposes, and Michael Pajon excels at mining rich veins of vintage pop culture for any transcendent epiphanies they might contain. Like his Chicago mentor, Tony Fitzpatrick, Pajon is big on vintage Americana fraught with euphemistic irony, but his mystical Hispanic DNA seems well adapted to the swampy voodoo vibe of his adopted hometown. In this aptly named Palimpsest series, his collage drawings explore how myths represented in vintage pop culture live on in the present.

A Beat of the Heart, A flick of the Tongue (pictured) features the sort of high Victorian beauty who appeared as a kind of popular pin-up girl in places ranging from Storyville bordellos to the frontier saloons of the Gold Rush, sometimes juxtaposed with the American eagle as seductive symbols of manifest destiny. But beauty and strength were often elusive in the mad, death-defying scramble to settle the old West, and here Pajon’s beauty, flanked by a turkey buzzard and snakes, sports the tattoos of a circus or side-show performer. Today, deadly crossings of barren desert wastes are still undertaken, but the new pioneers are mainly migrants fleeing dystopian homelands ruled by armed gangs and drug cartels. In Hands Remember What the Heart Forgets, the so-called “Hand of Power” — that near-universal mojo symbol for the sudden quantum, death-defying leap of faith or luck — appears pierced with a dagger and has flames flaring from its fingernails. Emerging from a serpent-infested flower labeled “Love,” and flanked by horseshoes, crescent moons, spiders and songbirds, it is a reminder that despite all the technology with which we now surround ourselves, life and love are still mysterious, and destiny remains a roll of the dice.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Press Release for Michael Pajon's 'Palimpsest' Exhibition

MICHAEL PAJON, Wound Woman: After Gersdorff, 2014, mixed media collage on tin target and antique book covers

JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY is proud to announce, Palimpsest, an exhibition of new collages by artist MICHAEL PAJON. The exhibition will open on Friday 6 February and run through 28 March, 2015. The gallery will host an artist reception on Saturday 7 March from 6-9pm.

pal·imp·sest (/ˈpælɪmpˌsɛst/) noun ::: something reused or altered that still bears visible traces of its earlier form

This definition speaks to the very nature of collage. A medium composed of found materials, Pajon employs pre-photographic engravings and illustrations from the mid-1800’s through the 1960’s. Collage inspires Pajon to examine source materials in a way that is both critical and transformative. His approach flourishes from his own love of printed matter, an elegant technology, without which most modern innovations and information would not exist; that echoes throughout our daily lives.

 -The medical manuals, whose beautifully produced lithography, illustrated the inner workings of the human body layer by layer like a pop-up book, a novelty now relegated to children’s books.

-The matchbook advertisements that gave one a sense of place/time, often collected as mementos, but also a delivery device for phone numbers and conversation starters.

-The natural history journals filled with gorgeous illustrations, but now rife with scientific inaccuracy and poor knowledge of animal behavior built on the perspectives of dominant theories of the time.

By breaking with the context and repurposing these materials into cautionary fables, Vanitas portraits, scrolling Homeric landscapes and allegorical tales filled with romance and ennui, I hope to create something beautiful out of the imperfect and the antiquated. Inspired by the funerary art and reliquaries of early Catholicism, I create still lives in the fashion of Vanitas, a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with still life painting in the 16th and 17th centuries. The works I fashion can be taken literally as still lives (the materials themselves as both object and former belonging of another human) and also as metaphorically (adhering to much of the symbolism that inhabits much of the Vanitas style reminders of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death). 

The toys and children’s books employed show socialization, teach play and explain issues of morality, but they also demonstrate a patently false categorization of life as a series of black and white vignettes. I attempt to uncover the many shades of grey within our lives by coupling game boards, targets and images from children's stories with more realistic (and sometimes ominous) elements, visually and emotionally recomplicating what was once oversimplified.

Because human beings continuously alter the environments they occupy, the images in this body of work (much like the materials involved in creating these images) seek to explore our relationship to ourselves and to our environment. They attempt to reveal the real and imagined fears ingrained in us through the socialization of our childhood, fears that separate us, that fragment an otherwise collective human existence. They attempt to map the constant flow and buildup of our changing selves and our changing environments, borne from that sediment of life, death, and change that, through erosion of time, bridges what was with what is and what will be.

MICHAEL PAJON attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 2003 with a focus in printmaking. Eventually gravitating to the graphic nature of the medium that closely resembled the comics he loved, he worked closely as an assistant/studio manager to renowned artist Tony Fitzpatrick. During this time he started making assemblages of the bits and pieces he had accumulated from alleys, junkshops, and thrift stores, slicing up old children's book covers and rearranging their innards into disjointed tales of Americana.

Pajon's work has been exhibited in various venues worldwide, including the Illinois State Museum (Chicago, IL), Chicago Cultural Center, Prospect 1.5 curated by Dan Cameron (New Orleans, LA), Adam Baumgold Gallery (New York, NY), Nau-haus Art Space (Houston, TX), Mobile Museum of Art (Mobile, AL), Dishman Art Museum (Beaumont, TX), Acadiana Center for the Arts (Lafayette, LA) and JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY, New Orleans, LA. His work has been shown in numerous art fairs including VOLTA New York, VOLTA10 (Basel, Switzerland), Miami Project, Nova Art Fair Bridge London, Aqua Art Fair (Miami, FL), Next Art Fair, Chicago, IL, Texas Contemporary Art Fair (Houston, TX) and Art Market San Francisco.

Pajon has been featured in Forbes, Installation Magazine, Kolaj Magazine, Basler Zeitung, Where Magazine, Juxtapoz, ArtInfo, Artlyst, New City, Artnet, Artslant, Oxford American, Gambit Weekly, The New Orleans Advocate and Pelican Bomb. Pajon’s work appears in numerous public and private collections including International Collage Center (New York, NY), 21c Museums (Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH; Bentonville, AR; Durham, NC), Purchase College, the Francis H. Williams Collection (Wellesley, MA), Megan Koza Young, Thomas Coleman and Michael Wilkinson.

For more information, press or sales inquiries please contact the gallery director Matthew Weldon Showman at 504.522.5471 or email

Nikki Rosato featured in Artist Video Series at VOLTA NY 2015

JFG Named Best Gallery in Louisiana for 2015 by American Art Awards

18th Annual NO DEAD ARTISTS International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art [installation view]

The American Art Awards, with an intent to introduce the 25 best American galleries to unknown artists worldwide, selects their top 25 picks for remarkably proficient and accomplished galleries each year in March. President of is Thom Bierdz, an acclaimed fine artist (and actor known to millions as Phillip Chancellor III on The Young & The Restless). Bierdz shares, “We at American Art Awards scrutinize thousands of galleries each year and find Jonathan Ferrara Gallery to be the Best Gallery In Louisiana, 2015.”

"Parisite", the $350,000 Skatepark

"The Parisite," New Orleans' first official skateboard park, opened Saturday (Feb. 28) at noon. Silvery sunshine bathed the intersection of Paris Avenue and Interstate 610, as city government dignitaries gathered around a portable podium. Nearby, in the deep shadow of the raised highway, dozens of teenagers zipped from place to place like pinballs throughout the $350,000 maze of concrete ramps and mesas.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke first, noting that the sound of the clattering skateboard wheels was a nice background sound for the ceremony.

The Parisite, the mayor explained, was a joint project of the Spohn Ranch Skateparks company, which donated the costly ramps; Tulane City Center, which contributed the landscaping; the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) and other city offices, which made the project possible; and Gentilly skateboarders, who began building the park two years ago on their own. Though Landrieu didn't mention it, the maze of concrete obstacles was built without taxpayer dollars.

Read all about the genesis of the Parisite in my Feb. 26 story: "New Parisite Skateboard Park, a $350,000 project, opens Saturday in Gentilly."

As cars whooshed by on the interstate above and smoke rose from a nearby barbecue grill, Landrieu declared that the new skate park was a symbol of Crescent City spirit.

"I think this is a great example of what collaboration looks like," Landrieu said, "and the consequences are not only great opportunities for young men and women, young boys and girls to learn how to skate, but how to connect communities together, and that's what creates social cohesion, which equals resilience."

After sketching a verbal picture of the virtues of the surrounding neighborhood, Landrieu issued a challenge to onlookers to assume custodianship for the unsupervised park.

"It's not just a skate park," Landrieu said, "it's a very, very important component in a very important place in this neighborhood; to keep this neighborhood strong.

"So we're going to turn this over to you the community members. It's yours, which means it's your responsibility to keep it straight, to keep it clean and to make sure the activities that take place here are healthy, and make sure it improves people's lives. And that is a heavy responsibility."

A DJ's sound system thumped to life as the speechmaking concluded. Artist/activist Skylar Fein, who acted as volunteer liaison between the youthful neighborhood skaters and the city government, had arranged to have a 6-foot-long corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich prepared for the opening ceremony. A lover of absurdity, Fein sought to substitute a Reuben cutting for a conventional ribbon cutting.

As the mayor stood by applauding, daring skateboarders, one by one, soared over the sandwich, landing -- sometimes gracefully, sometimes not -- in the midst of the crowd. 

Generic Art Solutions Featured at Moving Image Art Fair

GENERIC ART SOLUTIONSPushmi-Pullyu: The Collaborative Cycle, 2013, video installation, 13:50 loop

Pushmi-pullyu is titled after the two headed lama creature in Doctor Doolittle, where the creature has two front quarters each at odds with each other trying to go in opposite directions.

Pushmi-pullyu talks of the collaborative process its self, a back and forth of ideas, trusting that the direction and vision of the other is to the benefit of the project, when one is unable to see clearly how to get there. This can also relate to human relationships, which to most of us is an exercise in collaboration, trust and the pursuit of a common good.