"Is that freaking cardboard?" was my first thought as I stepped into Irvine Fine Arts Center's exhibition of artist Bill Jaros' work. Taking a closer look, I saw that it was indeed corrugated paper, but suffice it to say, the work was not the sum of my first perception. The boxes had been broken down, some flaps flattened, others left upright, the torn paper and rough, corrugated edges smoothed and made stiff with plaster. The precisely installed, colorfully painted sculptures practically jumped off the wall in rainbow bursts of crimson, brown, purple, pink, yellow, pale blue, orange and red.
While the individual paintings are named after Tunisian places "on the edge of the Sahara Desert where the artist lived and traveled"--according to the press release--the memories they stirred up were far less expansive. It wasn't Africa, it was about texture, as I gazed into the nooks and crannies of Jaros' work: exposed slats in an abandoned house, earth-bound fossils, the shell of bombed cities, even the cootie catchers we made as children, stomped on by an angry foot.
I usually connect with art created from found objects, but never did I feel like I was looking at prettied-up junk here. There is a life hanging on the white walls of IFAC's small side gallery; a love, generosity and skill put into the work...maybe even soul?
I wish there were seats in the gallery so that you could rest, gaze, and get lost in the details of Jaros' work. Instead, you'll have to stand and examine, decide for yourself what the sculptures mean...if anything.
I suspect that the artist is open enough to accept all interpretations.
His three stand-alone sculptures, Window I, Window II and Window IV, made of recycled wood, cut, stained, and held together with screws and corner braces to create a "frame" around a hole, are even more resplendent than the wall sculptures.
It's like something out of Alice in Wonderland, you can put your head through Window IV (pictured), but that space gets smaller and smaller as you go backwards, with Window II wide enough for your fist and Window I only allowing enough room for a squeezed hand. I
have no idea if there is a Window V
or higher, but if the three presented are any indication, the higher in number they go, the less narrow your view of the world outside is...and the more you can pass through one side to the other. It's as good a representation of seeing past the "cardboard" as I can think of. The Bill Jaros Exhibition is at Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave, Irvine, (949) 724-6880; www,cityofirvine.org/cityhall/cs/finearts. Open Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Jan. 22, 2011. Free.