This past weekend, Philadelphia-based artist Jim Houser opened his solo show at FFDG in San Francisco. Titled “Night Got Quiet, Not Quite Light.” The exhibition consists of Houser’s highly recognizable patchwork assemblages, as well as some minimalist mixed media works and site specific installations. Predominantly confined to his signature square format, this new show is a continuation of Houser’s exploration into the relationship between the visual and the aural. The interplay between text and imagery in Houser’s work makes way for an emotional narrative open to the interpretation of the viewer. Playfully rendered and meticulously composed, Houser acts as a visual storyteller, evoking an unencumbered youthful sentiment.
His unmistakable palette of varying reds and blues establishes a flat, graphic baseline for an echelon of texture and line work. “I always say the two main things I draw from are blood and the sea,” the artist states in an interview with FFDG. Experimenting with different raised surfaces and materials, Houser’s work borders on a thin line between painting and sculpture. Utilizing commonplace items and materials like wood and twine as well as incorporating geometric shapes, illustrative figures and highly stylized typography, Houser’s new body of work pays homage to his preceding patchwork collages all while stripping down to a more simplistic visual language. A new father, he states that his art-making has become more focused: “Things enter my painting vocabulary very slowly, a lot of themes are considered carefully. [My son] Seamus has worked his way in there, my hopes and fears for him. We’ve done some collaborative work too.”
Symbology and raw emotional resonance are at the center of Houser’s work, drawing upon themes of identity, isolation, fear and sense of self. Imagery of solitary figures in the midst of uncertainty, either shot full of arrows, severed in half or drowning in an invisible sea are all crisply contrasted by Houser’s charming color palette and folk-inspired aesthetic. Iconographic and powerful, “Night Got Quiet, Not Quite Light” seeks to cut through the noise to a simpler, less complicated place.