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Simon Lee Gallery, London

As part of its Viewing Room programme, Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present The Alphabet of Creation (for now) an exhibition of new works by New York-based artist and art dealer Joel Mesler. For his first solo presentation in the UK, Mesler will exhibit new paintings from his ongoing body of work based on the alphabet, in which each painting is devoted to a single letter, drawing on memories from his childhood and his hometown of Los Angeles.

Although Mesler’s autobiographical paintings evoke illustrations from a children’s alphabet book, his distinctive style imbues them with a dark wit that reveals pivotal moments from his life. The arms of the individual lowercase letters snake in and around a pattern of overlapping green leaves, a recurring motif in his work that is based on the Martinique wallpaper at the Beverly Hills Hotel – a place that, for Mesler, evokes powerful childhood memories:

“At the beginning of my parents’ divorce” he recalls, “We had brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My father threw the brunch table over; the eggs Benedict ran down the side of the table onto my mother’s lap and he had a nervous breakdown. My mother chased him in our station wagon while my brother and I ran after him on foot. That was my point of arrested development.” He says, half-jokingly. “That’s when I stopped being a normal person, I think.”

Composed on raw linen, the quick-witted drawings and hand-rendered texts are typically deadpan in their humour, while the bold leafy pattern and graphic elements recall the vernacular of Los Angeles and Southern California design. In some cases, the letters are rendered as snakes, reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden; in other works the head and tail are replaced by pointing hands, referencing the biblical story of creation. Above all, these paintings can be read as wry and self-deprecating commentary on Mesler’s roles as a father, artist and art dealer, with the hand of judgement pointing to geographical locations that mark significant moments in the genesis of his personal evolution.


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