In a sense, language itself is JonMarc Edwards’ creative medium – but he’s still a visual artist, and his studio materials are as tangible and physical as a painting, installation, or sculpture would be. It is more correct to say that for Edwards, language is his subject, and its qualities are the formal framework on which he hangs his conceptual meditations. Western and Eastern alphabets, numbers and pictograms are the forms and content that operate in his work, along with shrill lines and saturated palettes. His text and semiotic signifiers exist as abstract elements in his compositions and arrangements, as a way of marking that contains its own iota of meaning while launching vibrant, complex and even poetic works of art. His new show works made during the pandemic lockdown both deepen their personal psychological narratives and engage in the kind of conscious recombination of what was at hand that reflects this experience of shared isolation.
LA WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
JONMARC EDWARDS: When I was in kindergarten, my finger painting, BOY, was selected for a group exhibit of Orange County elementary school students. The exhibit was held at the newly built Hunt Library (designed by William Pereira) in Fullerton, California. Something clicked when I walked into the entrance hall with my parents and saw the easels, track lighting, and my work placed in the center of the space under the high ceilings. From that point on, all I wanted to do was fill in blank areas with my art; which at age five meant coloring bedroom walls, doodling cartoons in chalk on the sidewalk, and drawing magic marker skin tattoos. I still have the same impetus, just different media and different places.
What’s your short answer to people who ask you what your job is?
My job is to make the Language of Art a visceral and tactile experience. I see language as a sixth element (or 119th if you mean atomic structure) and something to be taken seriously like democracy or climate change. It is complex in nature but also natural for most of us to read a tweet.
My older work explored composition and the energy released by codes or composed characters. These concerns (not CONCERNS) have migrated into the texture of words and texts to the point of concrete prose paintings and an immersive dispensary in the form of letters (Debris). As my work explores the pleasure of visual touch and the meaning of creative acts, I am always curious about how my work reveals my unspoken and connects to the viewer’s subconscious.
My work can be seen as Energy meditations. I’m always happy and feel like I’ve done a meaningful job when people come to me at a show and tell me how excited a particular piece makes them, how they want to paint or create something. thing on their return home. When “activated” my work becomes a catalyst for the viewer to ask more questions about intention or to look and get lost in the creative meditation.
What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
Hmmm, probably a thermoplastic floor marking operator. I admire the precise work in large format. Generate miles of stenciled lines or arrows, zebra stripes and monosyllabic elongated and raised words on asphalt or concrete; Stop, Bump, No Turns, etc. that would suit my sensitivity very well, especially on a desert highway in winter.
Did you go to art school? Why why not?
I went to art school at Minneapolis College of Art & Design. I was interested in cinema, making films in a historical context of art. I gradually turned to painting, retaining many cinematic qualities in my work; time, image, light against darkness… MCAD had a dynamic program of guest artists; Joan Jonas, James Hayward, Mike Kelly, Tony Oursler, Vito Acconci, Suzanne Lacy, to name a few. It was an exhilarating time with many MCAD students implementing alternative and experimental theories. The students felt that they could use any medium available to them to pursue their ideas. The boundaries of various mediums simply crumbled for many of us, and we started doing performance painting and sculptural films. Personally, I have continued to push the boundaries of my art with immersive installations, professional performances and traveling text. dispensary.
Why do you live and work in LA, and not elsewhere?
I was born into a nomadic family of retail and small town traders and landed in Orange County at the age of three, then moved out of Southern California in grade two, moving throughout the Midwest for the next seven years. After high school, I traveled across the United States, eventually hitchhiking in the Pacific Northwest. I entered art school in Minneapolis as I mentioned. Later, after a stint in New York, I met up with artist friends in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the flow of artist sensitivity, the open-air studios, nature in the urban environment, and a plethora of freelance opportunities. In the end, it was a trip to Baja that sealed the deal, back in Los Angeles it felt right at home.
When was your first show?
My first commercial exhibition dates from 1989 at the Center for Contemporary Art in Chicago. I moved to LA shortly thereafter and had my first show in Los Angeles at Newspace in 1994. It was also my first show from MERGE paints or text compressions. Visually, these were information / content models that resembled Asian characters. Viewers were made to either passively gaze at the surface of the paintings or actively engage, revealing the spirit of the show. The success of this body of work subsequently spurred many tangents and alluring discoveries.
When is / was your current / most recent / next show or project?
Thanks for asking… Integrate the material at Matter Studio Gallery (Open December 19 from 4 to 7 p.m .; artist talk on January 9 from 2 to 4 p.m .; closed on January 16 from 4 to 7 p.m. Karla Funderburk is a truly inventive and talented curator. It will be delicate on the eyes but with some patents JMe brain reflections.
Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to show or work with?
Concrete artist Augustus of Campos, his knowledge and his elegance are a lesson in humility. My friend and musician, Thollem McDonas, is someone I did a short live action piece with but would like to collaborate with again on a larger scale. Obvious, visionary and intense writers / artists like Laurie Anderson, Suzan-Lori Parks inspire me visually. I also had the honor of working with the plastic artist and sculptor, Ewerdt Hilgemann multiple times and would love to do it again. lark teka, poet and youth author is also someone I am from afar and with whom I would like to collaborate on a project.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
When I work in the studio, I like to listen to the existing sounds of Silver Lake Blvd. A stimulating cacophony of street noise; speeding, semi-trailers, alarms, emergency vehicles, snowboarders, chirping birds, barking dogs, light chatter. It allows me to stay creative and aware of my surroundings while focusing on the job at hand. Every day is a new arrangement of arbitrary frequencies and sounds.
But occasionally I’ll listen to classical music, Haydn, Schumann and Schoenberg are my favorites, or release a few vinyl records from my idiosyncratic 60s collection with contemporary rarities.
Website and social media handles, please!