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Red Menace

Jordan Eagles' Choice of Pigment Purposely Complicates His Transfixing Images

Jordan Eagles' "FK11 VFK"

By Jason Hughes | Posted 12/19/2007

Jordan Eagles: Phase/FK

At Touchet Gallery through Dec. 22

New York artist Jordan Eagles' second solo exhibition at Touchet Gallery, Phase/FK, features a new body of paintings made from cows' blood that has been preserved between layers of plexiglass and resin. The high-gloss, synthetic panels suspend the otherwise fluid, organic forms that appear to ooze over the dense, transparent surfaces. Several of the works resemble inkblot test patterns and evoke a self-inflicted psychoanalysis when trying to identify with the work. Others are somewhere between enlarged microscopic views of animal cells, peering toward heavenly bodies through a telescope, and aerial views of Martian landscapes. Upon close inspection it is easy to get lost in the translucent layers bubbling and crackling apart, creating intricate textures and topographies.

Using cows' blood as a pigment, Eagles can manipulate the medium in a way that creates an eerily rich color unlike anything else I've seen. One of the best examples of this is "C1." Here Eagles creates a deep reddish-black square containing a large irregular ellipse glowing from its center. This primordial form is elegant and complex, resonating a powerfully clairvoyant sense. The dark outer form is created by allowing the blood to coagulate for a certain amount of time before "preserving" the process by coating it with clear resin. The inner circle itself appears to be made up of layers of blood sandwiched between layers of plexiglass, much like a microscopic slide. As a result, hundreds of tiny air bubbles have been trapped, creating subtle transitions of color, value, and texture. The back of the panel floats off of the wall, permitting passing light to cast a red shadow, adding even more depth and deposits of texture. The simplicity of the form and process adds to the overall appeal, creating a work that is calm and silent while respectively demanding attention.

Using the same scale and process, Eagles creates a very different effect in "UR4." Here he produces a form that is less celestial but more energetic--a sort of raging fire within. Bursting from the center of this panel are layers upon layers of irregular, jagged edges that form the pulsating central ellipse. A great deal of movement and activity is apparent, suggesting energetic movements through the body. In yogic practice, red represents the root chakra, or survival chakra, which is used to build an existence, find material security, and reproduce; in other words, it grounds and connects us to the earth. A negative emotion related to this, however, is fear. This association brings us even closer to the paintings by connecting us to the animal itself, literally, whose spilt blood has been used as a transformative device.

The large scale diptych "FK11 VFK" is another choice piece of the exhibition, featuring two large blood and resin-coated panels--each measuring 60 by 48 inches. The control issued over the puddles of blood causes the stains to hover between being inanimate painterly gestures and artistic renderings of paranormal life. The panels' scale is particularly helpful, allowing you to become fully absorbed by the materials and process. You can only imagine the amount of your own blood needed to create a piece that is nearly larger than life.

Overall, Eagles' paintings are highly polished, conceptualized works whose glossy surfaces have a certain seductiveness coupled with violence and agony. Arguably, the use of blood could be considered a celebration of life and regeneration, but it is impossible to separate cows' blood from the horrific practices of the beef industry or cows' sacredness in other cultures. The sheer beauty and amazement of Eagles' paintings is certainly evident, but no matter how mesmerizing they may be, the primal fear that has been permanently infused within that haunting red glow is undeniably present.

The superfluous amount of work in them, however, begins to water down those strongest works--transforming the "blood curdling" process into a borderline formulaic spectacle. No matter--Eagles' work hovers between life and death, and is as soothing as it is controversial, unquestionably evoking a certain level of intensity and inescapable presence.

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