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Jim Isermann

American, b. 1955


Fabric on wood
66 x 66 x 66 in. (167.64 x 167.64 x 167.64 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

Jim Isermann’s work is an amalgamation of postwar industrial design, popular culture, and ne art. His inclination to blend these aesthetics is seen in a 1982 solo show, just two years after he graduated from California Institute of the Arts. The exhibition was held first at the Inn of Tomorrow, a motel near Disneyland, and was then recon figured at the Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery in Los Angeles.

Untitled (1998) is a quilted, fabric-wrapped wooden cube that is heir to the transition between the 1960s and 1970s, a period exemplified by the pattern and decoration movement. These artists embraced bold colors and wild patterns in reaction to the severe, male-dominated aesthetics of minimalism. However, in Untitled (1998), as in other works, Isermann does borrow minimalism’s decisive use of the grid. He frequently begins with a modular unit that is then turned, twisted, and repeated, so that what appears to be a very complicated pattern is in fact derived from a simple, elegant equation. It is a process akin to Benoit Mandelbrot’s theory of fractals, which demonstrates the similar nature of recurring patterns at varying scales.

Isermann has a strong interest in art and design with a utopian sensibility, as seen in the Bauhaus movement or midcentury modern design. This kinship finds expression in the forms of his work—rugs, chairs, paintings, lamps—things representing the domestic sphere. Such work underlines Isermann’s sincere pursuit of an essential tenet of modernism: the impetus to improve one’s living experience through science and technology.

However, Isermann chooses the simple industry of a handmade aesthetic rather than the promises of industrialization. Untitled (1998) is not a cube that serves as a coffee table, but a beacon, whether in the living room or the museum, that expresses optimism about human ingenuity. The impossible, chaotic, and overwhelming world can be made pleasing and simple, providing a graceful manner in which to approach tomorrow.

Tyler Stallings

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