I walked into the Jon Gierlich show that opened last night in the Main Gallery at Cornish College of the Arts knowing nothing about him except that he had taught for years at the school, was beloved and had recently died.
I was immediately drawn in by the curious, collaged early work - delicate line and areas of color cut and pasted together in humorous yet seriously conceived pictures with droll captions. The show is full of beautiful, formal design that turns to cartoon and just as easily to a kind of magazine-graphic surrealism, with that same confident, drawn line throughout.
It's poignant to see an artist's thinking threading through a life's work and collected objects. He's an unsung, dyed in the wool Northwest master, complete with moldy archives and modesty and I wish there was a gorgeous catalog of his work I could buy to pore over.
Obviously he deserves a comprehensive show with lots of notes and scholarly research, but curator Cable Griffith has done a wonderful job of selecting from piles and piles of accumulated work.
I loved his late drawings from the series Quiet (at Francine Seders Gallery), his photographs of urban Seattle collaged together, his stylized, darkly humorous takes on traumatic personal events (falling, apparently, from the top of a building where he was working in the 70's), and the way he uses his architectural rendering skills to express a subversive, enigmatic view of modern life.
Above all, everything is elegantly composed and seen through the eyes of a man who as Cable pointed out didn't distinguish between architecture, cartooning, photography, painting, writing, or collecting curios - he was an artist. It was all art to him.
I'm going to go back and look again at these strange, beautiful drawings and collections of oddities that hint at Mr. Gierlich's mind.
See his work while you can. The gallery is open late for First Thursday, February 30.
Jon Gierlich: Currents at Cornish
Mon-Fri through March 21