Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Aphabetto: Josh Pearson @ Collective

Josh Pearson, "R"
About a year ago I saw Josh Pearson's work in an exhibit in the Vitale gallery space. It was graphically strong, with graffiti influences and covering a wide range of themes. There was a painting of a truck that had its wheels 'liberated', sitting on CBS blocks with two traffic cones on its hood. It was titled "Rhino". Unbeknownst to viewers back then, that image inspired Josh to do an alphabet of images over the last year, twenty-four of them.

 And it is also a bestiary, as each letter has a corresponding animal. Bestiaries, or as they were known, bestiarium vocabulum, were popular in the Middle Ages. Each animal was thought to have its own symbolic meaning, and a moral lesson. These things date back to the time of  the Greeks, and since they relied on traveler's tales, many of them not first hand, a lot of fantastic animals resulted. Aristotle had his Historia Animalum, Herodotus and Pliny the Elder had their own versions, and many more existed.

Josh Pearson, earlier work.

 This is a photograph of the work I saw about a year ago. Note the variety of themes, and the graffiti influence in the lower-most image.

 In the Middle Ages, these became popular with Kings and nobles in England and France. [Link] Leonardo Da Vinci made one. [Link] The form has continued into modern times. Henri Tolouse-Lautrec and Saul Steinberg made them. Jorge Luis Borges wrote one: "The Book of Imaginary Beings".  The most thorough literary one of modern times was centered on Florida: John Henry Fleming's Fearsome Creatures of Florida", published in 2009. [Link].

  Games sometimes have integrated bestiaries, like the Monster Manual for D&D, Castlevania and other games.

In this rich tradition, Josh Pearson brings us "Alphabetto", which consists of images and text by him.

In the "R" image at the beginning of this article, the text reads: "The Rhino has a horn that only warns, so he got stopped in his tracks". The moral could be: Bluffing isn't always going to work. You've got to be prepared to charge and gore if needed. So each image has its own parallel textual narrative. 

Josh Pearson, "H".

One of the highlights of this series lies in the colors, which are tailored to each individual image, and also flow sequentially from image to image. Here we see the "H", which is for Hippo, who "...yawns once and inhales a week's worth of ideas." You can do something often, or once,either way, make it count.

Josh Pearson, "N"

N is for the Narwhal, in this case a stylized hypodermic needle. The text tells us the animal is also known as "the deadly mistake". Curiously, the Collective had a show early this year that featured narwhals in the same room this one is hung.

One can buy eminently affordable (cheap!) individual prints of the bestiary/alphabet, the book, or the entire work.

Also in this show is work done after "Alphabetto" was finished.

They're a series of abstracts, each with a white-ish central square, which makes the color surrounding it a challenge. The square within a square makes the main work itself into a frame form.

Josh Pearson with "Alphabetto"

Congratulations to Josh and the crew at the Collective for an interesting show.
See at Collective Gallery and Tattoo, 601 Central Ave., St Petersburg.

--- Luis

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