As sunlight floods the room, spilling through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the eye is immediately drawn to vibrant shades of blue and green jumping off the artwork hung on sterile white walls. Spotlighted against the otherwise minimalist Sprague Gallery, Jonathan Jackson’s vibrant abstract works perform a beautiful contrast, displaying his intricate linework, imagination and color.
On Oct. 18, the Sprague Gallery at Harvey Mudd College opened “Lines,” the first solo exhibition of Jackson’s work. Julia Hong, arts director of the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts at HMC, curated the exhibition, which features 10 pieces of Jackson’s work created between 2017 and 2023.
“Lines” is the tenth solo exhibition Hong has curated for the Sprague Gallery, with the previous nine featuring art created by students and faculty across the Claremont Colleges.
When Hong discovered Tierra Sol Studios, part of the nonprofit Tierra Sol Foundation, it piqued her interest for a new exhibition. The Tierra Sol Foundation works to provide individuals with disabilities creative paths to employment, education and the arts.
Hong had two specific criteria for her curation process: The exhibition should showcase an artist who has “a very particular visual language of their own” and an artist who has not yet had the opportunity to have a solo exhibition.
When scanning through Tierra de Sol’s database of artists, Hong stumbled upon Jackson’s art.
“I was immediately drawn to his confident line work,” Hong told TSL over email. “There was this sense of the artist’s belief in his lines, and this belief was not a spontaneous thing that happened in just one or two works.”
Lines are a primary element in much of Jackson’s works showcased in the exhibition. In “Mother Nature’s Enchantment” (2018), vibrant blue lines create a tree that stands in sharp contrast to the bright orange background. In “Teapot” (2017), lines constitute the detail of the forms depicted, giving the teapots depth and complexity.
As Hong writes in the exhibition press release, lines not only physically create many of the important aspects in Jackson’s work but also directly follow “the hand of the artist, his senses, memory and movement … thinking about the lines becomes thinking about the artist.”
“Lines are important in my work for creating forms,” Jackson said.“I use my imagination and draw what I like.”
“A solo exhibition in itself [is] a statement for the importance it gives to individual subjectivity and to seeing a world attentively.”
Jackson shared that he pairs lines and shapes with colors that he enjoys. In discussing his use of colors, Jackson pointed to “Water Pipes” (2019), a sprawling abstraction of real objects where energetic lines and bright colors intersect with one another, creating new forms.
Jackson and Hong agreed that the pieces in the exhibition depicting flowers are their favorites. Jackson expressed that the flower pieces stand out because of how happy he was when he made them. For Jackson, emotion and imagination are not mere inconsequential whims; rather, they often guide the conceptualization and actualization of his work.
Hong explained she installed “Flowers” (2023) and “Rose” (2023) next to each other due to the peculiar relationship between the two pieces.
The works are visually similar, with deep blue backgrounds which make the white flower pictured stand out. The crucial difference between the two, however, is that “Flowers” (2023) is the only piece from the exhibition without a single line. The blue background of “Rose” (2023) is filled with muted, horizontally stacked black lines, creating a sense of disquiet that mirrors the conflicting symbolism of roses, a flower of both love and pain.
“A solo exhibition in itself [is] a statement for the importance it gives to individual subjectivity and to seeing a world attentively,” Hong said.
“Lines” will run until Dec. 10 at Mudd’s Sprague Gallery in the Shanahan Center. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The gallery is open to the public and the Claremont Colleges community. A closing reception will be held on Dec. 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit arts.hmc.edu.