Joel Mesler: Pool Party
LGDR, London and Palm Beach
February 12 - March 15, 2022
Joel Mesler: Pool Party (2022)—which opened simultaneously in Palm Beach and London—explored the artist’s childhood memories and traumas in contrast with the joy and innocence that defined his upbringing in Los Angeles during the 1980s. This exhibition featured new paintings and works on paper that expanded on Mesler’s signature banana leaf motifs to include pool floats, beach balls, and disco lights. With this series, the artist reflected on the collective crisis and individual isolation resulting from the pandemic—evoking fire and water throughout his compositions to symbolize the calamity that enveloped the world. Mesler combined such imagery with lyrics from the playlists of his adolescence, invoking unifying and galvanizing songs such as the 1985 anthem “We Are the World.” Joel Mesler: Pool Party transformed the artist’s private suffering into a universal language of hope and survival.
In single compositions, diptychs, and triptychs, Mesler evoked the ’80s—winking at art historical forebears and cultural touchstones with his carefully chosen symbols and texts. The tropical flora and fauna in the works recalled the imagined jungles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau while summoning the recognizable patterned wallpaper of the Beverly Hills Hotel in California. Here, the inviting surface of a cerulean swimming pool pays homage to the figurative scenes of David Hockney and the abstract expanses of Brice Marden, even while populated with the playful pool floats of Mesler’s own early life.
The dichotomies Mesler probed were literalized in the unique structure of the exhibition, which opened concurrently on two continents. The artist created compositions that mirror one another, dividing them between LGDR’s spaces in Palm Beach and London—two separate works sharing a background, a text, or a form, on view across the Atlantic Ocean. This presentational approach echoed the bittersweet nature of childhood—an experience that is collective yet individual, remote yet intimate. Joel Mesler: Pool Party was both a raucous celebration of Californian life and a poignant meditation on the growing pains that continue to define us.