Johnathan McDermott at Bogda Gallery

Posted by on Jan 4, 2009 in Art Coverage, Interviews

Johnathan McDermott at Bogda Gallery


  1. Byron King
    January 4, 2009

    As discussed with Akbar this could be our first interview/show critique. I enjoyed speaking to Johnathan and he just graduated with his art degree, and works by day as a carpenter. This is his first solo show and I really enjoyed speaking with him. Do we want to try and critique the work online. I’m sure he’d get a lot out of it and would be open to that sort of thing.

    I think that’s one thing wrong with the global art scene is that artists put a lot of work into preparing for a show and then little if nothing is said about the work. Very rarely does an artist get an honest critique of their work or any feedback after a show, and I’ve found often times I leave feeling quite empty after the entire experience is over. Here we can attempt to stop that by having honest constructive critiques of artists featured on this site from now on.

    Who’s game. Thanks for sharing Johnathan.

  2. Frank
    January 5, 2009

    I’m basing everything I’m saying here on the interview, photos and the last pieces I saw from him in Bogda. Take it for what it is…

    It looks like he has three separate groups of work going: paintings, sculpture and the target. They come across very different in terms of craft, purpose and refinement.

    Speaking of refinement, I don’t get a sense of dumpster diving at all. I do go back and forth from greatly enjoying the slickness of the found items and wanting something bigger and meaner. So slick, in fact, that the origins of the material don’t play a part in the scheme for me. If the pieces were all cast from aluminum, cut from wood or metal by hand from the artist, I don’t think they’d be much different. They look more made than found. There is no fear of being too pretty here. They have a mechanical beauty to me that is somewhere between a chromed engine and wainscoting in an old house.

    Regarding the target piece, it doesn’t have near the gracefulness of the other sculptures. The materials don’t blend like they do in the other work, nor does it tell me anything I can’t hear quicker on the news. The attempt at a message is admirable in that he is sticking his neck out but it doesn’t give enough.

    Paintings look very unsure compared to the sculptures. In surface appearance, they don’t have level of craft, enjoyable line and angles, and coolness of the sculptures. They have more human flaws than the sculptures do. I do like the scale of the one painting hanging over Joy (overjoyed).

    Still thinking…

  3. Akbar Lightning
    January 5, 2009

    a carpenter, just like jesus.

    honest, a real man, searching for truth. i’ll take that anyday.

    prediction: he will go many places artistically, they will be better, improved, but he will return here again, and that will be divine.

    continuing thread: sincerity is key, and he’s got it.

    in the modern world, sincerity has itself become a commodity, Damien Hirst cannot outfake what this guy’s got.

    one wonders, what came first, the fame or the obnoxious celebrity. can we do the art world without the celebrity lust? am i asking too much?

    here we see a man searching.

    my instincts tell me he needs a website, but that is selfish on my part.

    i don’t know, is there a place for a man on the hill, making art for the village.

    in a world of so much trash, much of it products of refinement, so attractive, will recycling be a common form of poetry. if so, what will be higher than that, what will become prose?

    To assemble, again, is like smearing paint, pleasurable in itself. but he makes no claims to the contrary, and he gets props for that.

    when he makes claims about meaning, he is clear, it comes from an aching in his heart about his country, and his symbols reflect (literally) what it is he is trying to express. am i crazy for preferring this? a mirror, on a target, i get it, and it feels good. i can look at that work and receive. if i were to purchase this i would be supporting an idea, and its expression. as the beauty radiated in my home, it would be the beauty of an object born out of a feeling i understand, i can relate to, i want to bond with.

    perhaps i am a simple man, momma always said, perhaps all the pretension i see is just over my head, perhaps it all makes sense, and it is wise, but come on, come on…

    he has deep instincts and a little light on knowledge.
    preferable to too much knowledge and very shallow instincts.
    one can be learned whereas the other not so often.
    the knowledge i am talking about does not necessarily have to be outside of him, it is just the self knowledge that comes from experience, and time with one’s process, as he said, this was his first show. the next one, i bet my ass, will be hot.

    keep it classy san diego.


  4. Byron King
    January 5, 2009

    Frank, this was very eloquent and I enjoyed your perspective thoroughly. And I believe you are dead on on your break down on the three types of work. What you said made me think a bit about the paintings and why they were in the show with the sculptures. With the show I see an artist who nearly mastered shape shifting, form building, surface building. They are nice objects to look at plain and simple. I like how he came clean in the interview that he enjoys the process and that the objects sort of make themselves which to me makes me believe there is a spiritual quest involved in the object making. I appreciate it when artists engage in spirituality in their work. I agree with you about the target piece.

    The objects to me seem to be nearly electronic devices. There seems to be some fantasy involved with them for me. He uses retro-ish shapes and objects and when polished and cleaned they take on a contemporary feel. A newness is established. So in a way I can almost see the objects contain monitors, and touch panel devices to interact with and control your kitchen or garage, or the home of the future.

    In a way I can see them as devices from the 1950s home of the future. I do like how they don’t have some huge overbearing concept or manifesto attached to them. They are enjoyable to look at. The artist enjoys making them.

    I do like that Johnathan shared the concept of the target piece. I agree with you Frank that the concept is nothing new and I even think it’s a bit dated after the Obama election and seeing the way the world celebrated. I think that target has been removed for now. We’ll see after the current middle east cluster – WAR.

    What I like about the concept though is that he is tying concepts into this object making. It might be a long process but I respect that he’s looking at the objects now and trying to convey concepts. Which makes me excited to see where his work goes for the future. It was nice to see two collectors excited to buy his work, and walk out with them.

    I would maybe like the work to push the retro-futuristic theme I got from the show a bit more, and maybe have work that even seems more functional but not functional. To me that seems like a place where he could easily work without having to force concepts that aren’t there and would be nice commentary on our times and the evolution of design in functional objects.

    Side note: Akbar we were typing our comments at the same time, that’s why I didn’t reference your input but I enjoyed reading it just now.

  5. markcreegan
    January 5, 2009

    I would like Jonathan to design my kitchen! Yeah, actually my favorite piece is the target one. Its just so beautifully dorky and absurd. What is it? A target painted on a vanity mirror? with the bullseye left unpainted so when I look into it my face is the bullseye? How freakin great is that! I want that on my dresser! I could hang my ties on it if I had any ties. I could hang my love beads!
    Second for me is that block with the two boxing glove things sticking up.I think its great dorkdom the way they just stick up like that! I imagine its like some sort of wacky torture device. Like you place a person’s face in between the boxing glove-like things, turn a switch, and let them beat the tar out of em.
    I want THAT on my dresser next to the target mirror! I could use it to wake my ass up in the morning as i put on my love beads.
    And then I can go into my Jonathan McDermott designed kitchen for a cup of joe!
    That’s what Im sayin!

  6. Frank
    January 5, 2009

    I’m going back to the target for a minute because it brings up another issue. Without his explanation, I don’t know if I would get it. The contrast between the target and the early American knockoff posts holding it up is distracting to me. Here’s where I got an issue…. Everybody knows that Americans have been/still are targets (as pointed out in the recent India attacks) as the news often explains… but is that knowledge gained through a second party enough to create a powerfully personal and honest piece of art (those being needed qualifications for a work raising life and death issues). Listening to the video interview, I get the idea that McDermott has probably never been shot at. I’m not questioning the right to make a work in reference to an experience not gained first hand, but literature, art, and movies that are based on the first hand experiences tend to be far more powerful that those that are not. Take “Saving Private Ryan” for example. Those first scenes, possibly the most powerful war movie images ever were painstakingly taken from first hand accounts – whereas “The Dirty Dozen” not so much (fun movie). Is it enough to learn through the TV, radio and internet?

    I can see McDermott’s first hand experiences as a carpenter come through the sculptures. Carpenters have a kind of x-ray vision about how things are build that mystifies me. Try properly hanging a door if you don’t see those folk as skill craftsmen (I come from a family that are traditionally carpenters). I see his sculptures celebrating that. The target piece doesn’t carry the same weight. Feels clumsy.

  7. kurt polkey
    January 5, 2009

    What I appreciate most about this show is the simplicity of the work. So often artist do way too much, especially when they are young. I would love to have a sculpture on my dresser too. Johnathan if you’re reading this – I’ll take the one with the little red box on top, as long as you don’t mind trading art for art.
    I’m pretty much in agreement with everyone on this one – the paintings are weak and the assemblages are rather good.

  8. Akbar Lightning
    January 5, 2009

    yes, i probably agree about the paintings, but i think he should continue painting, simply because i think he will find his way artistically through paradox.

    i trust my instincts for people, and a person who can sincerely tell the truth the way he can about who he is and what he is doing has much to say. a second show is necessary here.

    i don’t have any problems with attempting to engage with issues with which we have no first hand experiences. Without this we would not have Michelangelo’s David. that is in fact what imagination is all about.

    i think we could agree that more research would help him. depth of research aids the imagination, as it was spielberg who directed Saving Private Ryan, and he was not involved in the war at all.

  9. Frank
    January 6, 2009

    I agree with the benefits of research, but no matter how many boxing fight reels you study or punches your throw at a bag, nothing opens your eyes to what is really happening like a good solid right to the nose (picture the Chris Tucker “you got knocked the #@%& OUT! from Friday). I’ve watched a few people painstakingly learn the techniques of boxing only to get that first shot to the face that turned everything they thought inside out. That’s the power experience: it can’t be faked.

    I think Michelangelo used the imagery of David to encapsulate his (M’s) own battles and reckonings. The fact that it is wrapped in the guise of a Israelite Sheppard (a good old school Hebrew fellow don’t wander around the wilderness naked) is secondary to Michelangelo’s will. His own reportedly tumultuous and pugilistic life is the experience that work is based on. I suspect he could defiantly relate to what it is to prepare for a fight/meeting with destiny.

    Issues explained and defined are illustrations, art should be deeper.

  10. Akbar Lightning
    January 6, 2009

    good point frank…very personal to me, i tried boxing at 22 years old, and it changed my life forever, so i have to agree with you.

    and very good point on David and the appropriation factor. that begs the question of spielberg and his movie. can the movie industry really be that bad? ha ha.

    that last line, is the one i need to think about.

    Issues explained and defined are illustrations, art should be deeper.

    it implies a spiritual factor, which i am up for, but for the sake of argument, and to get me off the hook. explain deeper!


  11. jonathan
    January 20, 2009


  12. Kelly Hould
    March 18, 2009

    Jonathan did not mean to post his reply in all caps. He is not wise in the ways of the internet, and you will need to be patient with him.

    He doesn’t normall yell about art, I promise.

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    March 18, 2009

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  14. Mark Creegan
    March 18, 2009

    YELLINGABOUTARTISCOOL!! 🙂 so is ***w i s p e r i n g*** about art

    Jonathan probably needed to yell in order to hear himself over all his woodcutting equipment.

  15. Byron King
    March 18, 2009

    I definitely didn’t take it as yelling. Johnathan is way too laid back to yell by using all caps. No worries. Really.

    What’s he up to Kelly?


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