The Austin Chronicle

"When Everything's Been Said" at ICOSA Gallery

In this two-man exhibition by Jonas Criscoe and Mark Johnson, some pictures work a thousand words

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, January 25, 2019, Arts

When everything's been said, what are you going to do? Resort to the physical? Indulge in a little communicative violence, maybe?

Or – how about art? How about you make some art instead, direct any violence that you've got bubbling up toward a gathering of pigments and substrates, maybe some plastics and papers and sheets of metal? Start with printing and gluing, daubing and spraying, get right down to ripping and shredding and bending and scraping.

But it's not exactly violence, not in the negative sense, when it's in the service of art. Then it's industry. It's creation. And when it's filling the gallery at ICOSA, when it's "When Everything's Been Said," the two-man show of works by Jonas Criscoe and Mark Johnson, it's a combination of the visual and the heady that might leave a person speechless.

Criscoe is a master of screenprinting. He's also an artist who knows how to layer images in ways that can frustrate a lesser mortal. Because, you, me, Joe and Jane Ordinary, if we take the same printed materials and collage them onto a surface, our results are likely to be disappointing. But whether he's giving color and shape to deep personal visions or indulging favored ornaments of design, Criscoe's results will be work that impresses an eyed mind, that invites further consideration. That makes you think, "You know, if this guy was in charge of a territory's wayfinding signage, we might never know where the fuck to go – but we wouldn't want to leave, anyway, when there are things like this to look at."

Before everything's been said, of course there's a gallery statement. The one for this gig goes, in part, "Through their mixed media works both artists mimic the cacophonous nature of our contemporary environment while reflecting upon the incoherent facets of information that saturate our daily lives."

That covers it pretty well, all right, but it neglects an undercurrent in Johnson's part of the show – although maybe it's an undercurrent we're only imagining? But we've reviewed the maestro's works before, and we see here that he's continuing his vigorous explorations of text-as-visual-element. Which means there are handwritten passages embedded within or scattered across or projecting from each intricately eye-snaring, letter-wracking piece. And we'd swear the man has recounted, in so many words scribed and scrawled, the dialogues and monologues that occur when at least one of two people are trying to extricate themselves from an intimate relationship that's gone way past its emotional expiration date.

Which is the sort of thing that, as parts of art are supposed to do, really hits home. Because who among us has never been there? At that hopeless crossroads of love, where hearts are long buried while the travelers yet live? At that numb point, that dumb point, when everything's been said?

“When Everything’s Been Said”

ICOSA Gallery, 916 Springdale, 512/920-2062;
Through Feb. 16

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