Joel Mesler: In the Beginning
Joel Mesler: In the Beginning (2021), presented by Lévy Gorvy, was the artist's first solo exhibition in Asia. Employing words and images, Mesler draws on childhood memories and life experiences to inform paintings that meld his private impressions with cultural touchstones, illuminating elements of universal human consciousness. The works on view in In the Beginning were composed with boldly stylized patterns representing leaves of banana trees and other plants alongside animal forms, pools of water, and the sun. In subject and style, the tropical flora and fauna of the paintings recalled the imagined jungles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau and such iconic forms of mid-20th-century decorative arts as printed wallpaper depicting exotica. Mesler added phrases rendered in the script, experimenting with letter formation and its integration into his compositions.
Mesler conceived these paintings by reflecting on nocturnal reveries and childhood dreamscapes. As he recollects: “The paintings come out of the memories of nights my parents would go out for the evening. They would usually tuck me into my bed and kiss me goodnight, my mom leaving red lipstick residue smudged on my cheek. As I would fall asleep, all these elements would swirl through my mind as I hit REM. Their parting words to me, ‘Honey, you deserve great things’ and ‘The world is yours,’ and the animals in my wallpaper would meet with the furs of my mother’s jackets, the colors of their clothes and the smells of their perfume and cologne. I often thought about what my parents were doing as the night went on. I knew they did things, but I didn’t really have the language yet to describe them. The paintings in this show are my dreamscapes as my parents and I moved through the night.”