Three works by Jason Middlebrook (from left): Black Lines on Black Birch, 2014; Many Types of Woodgrain, 2012; and Inspired by a Diner in Nyack, 2013.
Coming off of successful stints at MASS MoCA and this year’s Art Market Hamptons, artist Jason Middlebrook will display his signature series of painted hardwood planks at Silas Marder Gallery from August 16 to September 14 in an exhibit titled “Every Tree Is a Map.”
Inspired by how trees map time, space, and human influence, the artist started painting on cross-sectional slabs of redwood, English elm, maple, and Cairo walnut tree trunks in 2008. His transposed paintings are the result of his own visceral reactions to the form as well as a careful study of distinct elements like patterns, knots, and borders. “I waver between respecting the grain and form and trying to impose my own will on it,” he says. “The feeling I get when I go against the natural form is the same feeling I get when I see certain tensions between nature and man-made structures in the real world.”
Surfaces are painstakingly painted with compact geometric lines and abstract shapes that work both with and against the grain. “What is interesting is the more balance I can achieve between the organic pattern and my own geometric design, the more visually dynamic the piece is, which speaks to the relationship on a symbolic level.”
At the cross section of sculpture and painting, his work demonstrates the culminating tension of his change of locales—having grown up around the redwoods of California before moving to New York City, then to Brooklyn, and finally relocating with his family to Hudson, New York. The artist likens this tension of the urban and natural to the visual of “roots breaking up asphalt.” The overlaying of man-made structures can only deter nature so much. “Jason Middlebrook: Every Tree Is a Map” will be on exhibit from August 16 to September 14 at Silas Marder Gallery, 120 Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton, 702-2306