Thomas Robertello Gallery is pleased to present The Unreasoning Mask: New Revelations in Figurative Metaphysics by Brooklyn-based artist Jason Robert Bell, January 9 through February 21, 2009. There will be an opening reception Friday January 9, 5:00 – 8:00 pm. This is Bell’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Bell’s small-scale paintings and sculpture feature enigmatic entities built with layers of paint, paper collage, raw metallic pigments and colored sand trapped within epoxy. The works encase powerful figurative images under smooth glossy surfaces. These metaphysical portraits, whose imagery is the result of years of the artist’s independent research in the fields of mythology, spirituality, symbolism, and speculative thought, are fusions of primitive, modernist, and otherworldly forms producing profoundly playful and arresting imagery.
The title for the exhibit comes from Melville’s Moby Dick, describing the nature of reality: “All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!…How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?” – Ahab to Starbuck
Bell uses the visual arts as a mode of hermetic philosophy, exploring assumptions of reality and selfhood, creating new forms of expression from the vast sea of his visionary imagination. Each work is an attempt to access an exalted mental space, a primal mystic “Eternal Now”, where the entity that is coming into existence in the painting is slightly beyond comprehension. Similar to the Tibetan Buddhist concept of the “tulpa” or “thoughtform”, in which actual living beings are created from thought, these transformative works are a synthesis of Utopian landscape, living forms, and the artist’s own lucid and blissful dreamlike state.
Bell’s work reveals his own pasteboard masks, and grotesquely ravishing life forms and worlds that hint at deeper, more powerful realities beyond our reality.
Jason Robert Bell graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with a BFA in painting in 1995, and the Yale School of Art, with an MFA in painting in 2000. Bell’s paintings, drawings, experimental films, sculptures, graphic works, internet pieces, outdoor installations, and theatrical performances have been exhibited and performed in New York, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Miami, Washington D.C, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Tokyo.