Review: Juan Luís Jardí’s “Tiempo Sostenido” Clocks in With Eerie Power

The Barcelona-based artist is doing time at Wally Workman Gallery

Juan Luís Jardí’s Un Paseo por Coney Island (courtesy of Wally Workman Gallery)

Unlike Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, the Barcelona-based artist Juan Luís Jardí has not become unstuck in time. That may not be true, though, for many of the people depicted in Jardí’s meticulous oil paintings of magical realism, now on view in his solo show “Tiempo Sostenido” at Wally Workman Gallery through Feb. 25.

You know about time ghosts, right? All those spectral iterations of self left behind as we move from one moment to the next, ever remaining in place among the architecture and infrastructure, no matter how many years, decades, centuries pass? Walk into the Workman Gallery right there off West Sixth, and how many time ghosts are you phasing through, how many former selves who visited previous shows throughout the gallery’s 44-year history? When you climb the stairs to the venue’s doors, do you sense a faint vibration as you encounter the exiting ghosts of your younger self and that woman from Lubbock you dated decades earlier, the temporal apparitions of you and the artscene buddy you insisted accompany you to Erin Cone’s exhibition back in 2002, so many place-anchored phantoms of former identity?

They’re waiting for you inside the handsome Clarksville gallery: not your ghosts, particularly, but the ghosts of human subjects in Jardí’s creepy narrative images, whether depicted as embodied in situ or reiterated on posters and other media within each frame. The young boy with crossed arms in Children in the River; the triplicated waiter in Margot la Vidente, in which Margot herself is twinned in a decontextualized portrait against one wall of the sidewalk cafe; the blue-shirted onlooker of Esther Greenwood in Istanbul, his ghosts captured more surely than the way in which a display window Magrittely mirrors the dapper citizen at the urban scene’s left side.

These paintings reveal glitches of the mind’s clock, or possibly the heart’s clock, the intimate stutterings that can occur when trying to express in word or image what’s gone before. How convenient, for comparison’s sake, that the Workman Gallery’s next show (March 2-31) is by local man Ian Shults – his paintings’ intentional glitches are more literal in the fabric of depiction, more broadly cultural, the ultravivid Hollywood version of what the gentle Jardí is depicting in his quietly disturbing scenes of “Tiempo Sostenido.”

And never mind Istanbul – who the hell is Esther Greenwood, anyway? Oh, right: The narrator of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. And how old were you when you read that descent into madness, and who were you back then? And how many years was that after you visited New York’s Coney Island with your grandparents, both long dead now and become the more generally acknowledged sort of ghosts? Ask the boy strolling that NYC attraction’s thoroughfare with a leashed rhinoceros in Jardí’s Un Paseo por Coney Island; maybe he knows. And maybe he also knows the story of the human/cat hybrid depicted on a billboard in the amusement park’s background, the same creature who foregrounds Jardí’s painting called Ocaña.

So much time, so many ghosts. “Time Sustained” is what “Tiempo Sostenido” means in English. And what does the sustenance of time provide best but a way for people to explore their own histories, to return, in memory, to investigate all the ways things were before they started to go wrong, before they started to go right, before they became the circumstances of the life being lived right now? The life you’re living right now, citizen: locked into the present, haunted by the past, uncertain of the future.

Juan Luís Jardí, notes the artist’s statement on his website, “strives for his work to provoke feelings: nostalgia, melancholy, loneliness, and a sense of uneasiness as well as feelings of euphoria and calm.” I can’t speak to that “euphoria and calm” part of the provocation, personally; but this reporter can assure you of those first four descriptors’ veracity: “Tiempo Sostenido” is prime emo territory, dredging up the sort of feels you might encounter when two different exes text you on the day you’re finally putting your all-vinyl collection of the Smiths up for sale on eBay. Yes, of course it’s recommended.

Juan Luís Jardí: Tiempo Sostenido

Wally Workman Gallery

Through February 25

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Juan Luis Jardi, Tiempo Sostenido, Esther Greenwood in Istanbul, Margot la Vidente, Un Paseo por Coney Island, Wally Workman Gallery

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