Jim Sajovic Raises A Blush At Todd Weiner Gallery

by Liz Cook

If an art exhibition can be said to have curb appeal, a drive past the Todd Weiner Gallery right now yields the visual equivalent of a hot pickup line. Jim Sajovic's new solo show, Hix Fragments & (pash'n), is hard to miss from the street. Explosive colors dazzle like fireworks through the gallery's glimmering glass windows. And that effect only intensifies once you've stepped into the gallery, where Sajovic's meditations on human expression and eroticism achieve hypnotic power.

Sajovic's digital paintings blur the line between electronic and physical brushwork, combining pigmented inks and old-fashioned acrylics. The paintings in his Hix Fragments series add text to that already complex aesthetic, overlaying images with lines clipped from the poetry of Sajovic's friend H.L. Hix. "Never in Control" stamps a fuzzy self-portrait with semitransparent text. The squat, angular lettering simultaneously softens the image and gives it texture, and the crisp turquoise dots separating each word help us parse the poetry.

"Sometimes Lie" offers a less straightforward presentation. Sajovic makes you work for the message — letter size and spacing vary within the verse, slowing down your eye as you scan the canvas. Some words are in the foreground, others blurred. The text's palette here appears more delicate than in Sajovic's other works, with lighter pinks and sea greens floating ethereally in front of the background image's deeper tones.

Two of the exhibition's most enthralling pieces share a title. "I may kill..." stretches the same haunting poetic fragment over paintings of two faces, one male and one female. The Todd Weiner Gallery presents the pieces together on one wall, highlighting the themes and tropes in conversation. Though each painting is a stand-alone marvel of emotional and visual depth, the interplay between the two adds yet another layer to Sajovic's work. The male painting presents the poetic fragments as a wide net of text, with the sans-serif letters and wide kerning of an eye doctor's chart. As in "Sometimes Lie," we have to concentrate for meaning to emerge — our more immediate focus remains on the man's expressive features and piercing, pool-blue eyes.

In the female iteration, the text is fully integrated in the scene: Words are swiped on the canvas as if on a steamed-up mirror, letting us glimpse the richer, more saturated colors behind the fog. The letters are scrawled unevenly across the surface, capturing the imperfection of an unsteady finger on glass. The humidity softens the woman's face, but her expression is no less haunting and alive than that of her male counterpart. Each of these subjects, the overlaid text says, could become "a razor in the night without warning."Across the gallery, (pash'n) throbs with an almost palpable eroticism. Couples, not individuals, are the focus here, and each painting in the series exposes an electric moment between two lovers. "Flicker," "Licker" and "Lip Nip" hang together on one wall, crafting visual harmony with interwoven colors. The vibrant, high-saturation inks meld and tug at the couple's faces, capturing them as if through an infrared camera. Heat blooms in Sajovic's unbridled palette: magentas, deep purples, fiery oranges and lipstick reds.

As in Hix Fragments, however, there's more to these paintings than what emerges at first blush. Sajovic's acrylic glaze adds a visual texture that you can appreciate only up close. Razor-thin lines of pale pink and green jet across the paintings like static on an old television. The hand-applied paint flecks the work with slight imperfections as it pools in the corners, making these pieces feel even more human and alive.

"Lip Nip" is intoxicating in its intimacy. The interplay of light and shadow emphasizes the natural curves and contours of a couple's faces, veiling everything but the essentials in dark romanticism.

In each (pash'n) piece, gender isn't immediately apparent; Sajovic allows us to imbue the scenes with our own histories and desires. "Flicker," for example, presents two faces in near mirror image, their features converging like molten metal into a pattern reminiscent of a Rorschach ink blot. Only the slight tilt of a face breaks the symmetry, allowing us to distinguish one from the other.

"Devour" dances more deliberately with this kind of ambiguity. Its commingling splashes of color make it nearly impossible to isolate individual features and faces. Shapes melt together, evolving into a permanent fusion of bodies and passions.

"Frenzy" and "Devour" are staged together on their own wall here, a presentation that brings into relief the subtle differences between (pash'n)'s component paintings. These two tweak the palette slightly, mixing dusky blues and greens in the top third of each canvas. That arrangement pulls the eye down to find the higher-saturation colors at each painting's base. We scan the canvases as we might look upon a mate, our eyes drawn toward colors and curves.

As seductive as (pash'n) is, Sajovic's exhibition is most alluring when taken in at once. The two halves sweep you into a deeply affecting current of intimacy, identity and desire.

 

The Pitch   November 28 – December 4, 2013