For nearly two decades, Jonny Negron has developed distinctive mises-en-scène that assemble an array of social and psychological intercourses through painting, drawing, and animation. Digitalis at DANGXIA Art Space is Negron’s largest institutional exhibition to date and comprises a suite of new paintings, alongside works on paper from the artist’s archive, and an animation developed for the occasion.
As with previous bodies of work, Negron taps into the sedimentary matter built from the semiotic profusion of human life. From portraits of individuals infused with symbolic resonance to groupings of figures communing in revelrous overflow, Negron’s work expresses the way in which diametric, emotive forces congeal under the headings of personality, ego, and communal exchange.
The title of the exhibition demonstrates a wider handling of language that runs through this body of work. Digitalis is a plant, commonly referred to as foxglove in English; it is a drug that increases the flow of blood through the heart; as well as a fictional, illicit drug in Philip K. Dick’s novel, Valis. The etymology of the word comes from digitus, referring to fingers in Latin, then adopted by the English language to mean numbers.
Throughout the exhibition, Negron uses euphemism, lyricism, abbreviation, metaphor, allusion, and other linguistic devices to magnify and multiply meaning. The only multi-figure painting in the exhibition, for example, is composed in an urban environment with what appears to be the last three letters of the word “fashion” – “ion” – scripted on a storefront. The painting more broadly engages with the separation and convergence of materiality and the atomic constitution of all material forms, so what appears to be an incidental crop becomes an opportunity for augmented meaning.
The framing and composition in these works is a distinct development for Negron. Crops and perspectives are employed that belong to a history of the cinematic moving image; light qualities that suggest an aperture is determining a subject’s luminosity; text is stationed throughout the paintings and functions like intertitles, subtitles or lyrics that suggest the soundtrack to a scene of which we only see a frame.
Digitalis wraps itself around the mythological, embracing stories derived from world religions, the occult, classical visual and literary traditions, and contemporary myth-making machinery. These recent works deepen the artist’s embrace of classic visual and literary traditions – as these paintings also invite the swirl of numerology, linguistics and divination as semiotic vessels which append these vignetted, suggestive scenes.
This exhibition has been organized in collaboration with Los Angeles-based art consultant, Irina Stark.
Jonny Negron (b. 1985, Carolinas, Puerto Rico) lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Recent solo exhibitions include Château Shatto, Los Angeles; Mao Space, Shanghai and Qingdao Art Museum, Qingdao. Select group exhibitions include Pond Society, Shanghai; Galerie Crèvecoeur, Paris; David Zwirner, New York; Tegners Museum, Dronningmolle; Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Los Angeles; Lily Robert, Paris; Embajada, Puerto Rico; The Hole, New York; and American Medium, New York.
Negron’s work has been featured in Artforum, Hyperallergic, Cultured, CURA Magazine, Office Magazine, Wallpaper, Editorial Magazine, Garage Magazine, Artillery, KALEIDOSCOPE, Interview Magazine and Los Angeles Times.
Negron’s work is in the permanent collection of DANGXIA Art Space, Beijing; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao; and Pond Society, Shanghai.