Closing at Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse this week is Jason Lee Gimbel’s “If you want to see the invisible,” a solo show that aims for the sweet spot between representation and abstraction — and sometimes hits it.
Gimbel’s classical figure painting of mostly solitary figures is impressive and pleasing at first. Relaxed, confident renderings of lounging nudes contrasted with a bold abstract expressionist style plays to the masses in a largely effective way. The artist’s instinctual, fuck-all brushwork excels on long appendages in particular, tugging the viewer along through complex color fields with real verve, confidence, and subtlety.
There is a problem of busyness, though, of note in faces and hands: the results veer towards frenzied chicken scratch at times. Gimbel’s best work indeed tends to be softer and minimal in application, and that works well with the understated elegance of his models’ poses.
Another issue — a bigger one, in fact — revolves around the balancing act he’s attempting: figures often seem more like vehicles for the artist’s proficient abstract proclivities. As forward as they are in the compositions, they look and feel secondary, sometimes bordering on obstructive, and at worst muddy up some gorgeous passages. When this approach works, however, a wide emotional range is conveyed, elevating these pieces high above mere figure studies.
Vying for the best of both worlds is a formidable challenge, and Gimbel does his best, but not all that is invisible should be seen, and neither should all that is visible.
Jason Lee Gimbel’s “If you want to see the invisible” on display at Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse (in the gallery outdoors) closes March 31.