Jason Whitman’s hapless animals at Rebus Works | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jason Whitman’s hapless animals at Rebus Works

Posted by on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 6:36 PM

rebus2.300.DSC00922.jpg
  • Courtesy of Rebus Works
Jason Whitman:
Drawings
Rebus Works

Through March

Remember that guy in high school who was always drawing? You always wanted to sit in the row next to him so you could peek over during class to see what he was scrawling there, hiding the paper with an arm so the teacher couldn’t see what he was up to. I have a feeling that Jason Whitman was one of those guys.

Whitman’s 25 or so pencil drawings currently at Rebus Works in Raleigh still show something of that album-cover, adolescent hand, featuring painstakingly shaded animals under various degrees of ironic duress, but through their seriality he’s developed a more critical mischief.

Almost every drawing fits into one series or another. Putting the titles of the drawings in this review is really a bit of a spoiler, as it’s the moment that you lean in close to Whitman’s work to read the title, written in tiny fullcaps, that you really see the piece. Whitman has developed a vocabulary of drawing-title relationships that spark more often than they fizzle.

hyenacloud300.171.jpg
  • Courtesy of Rebus Works
Whitman’s prominent motif is to place an animal’s head and shoulders upon a human’s skeleton. Although the animals are drawn with great shading and detail, the skeleton is rendered in a cartoony outline verging on bubble-letters. He even has finger puppets of some of these, for the child in your family who disses Disney for Tim Burton.

Some of Whitman’s titles pun off the animals too simply—a disgruntled sea turtle scowls out of “Shell of Your Former Self.” But when he pairs two animals in one drawing, the implied conversation works better. A retriever turns its head to a chimpanzee in “So Now What?” A lynx and rabbit stand awkwardly beside each other in “True Love Will Find You In the End.” Whitman’s earnest hand and clear stylization denies any sense of simple gore. You don’t imagine a stripped-away animal body somewhere. The animals themselves seem unperturbed at the absences of their bodies.

In the “Breathing Exercise” series, animals in profile emit multicolored curled shapes from their mouths. Something between a wordless voice bubble and a watercolor paisley, the shapes seem like an essence is betraying or fleeing these stoic rats, rabbits, and squirrels.

rebus.1.300.DSC00.jpg
  • Courtesy of Rebus Works
A more interesting and vaguely environmental series involves animals again in full-body profile with little landscape scenes on their backs. In “If You Know You’re History,” a buffalo with flowers coming out of its back is literally pushing up daisies. A tired-looking deer bears a mini Manhattan in “I Think This Is Where I Get Off.” The ferret toting a dead forest in “I Know What I Did Was Wrong” expresses an ambivalence between guilt and accusation.

The coolest piece in the show is a standalone drawing that perhaps represents a new direction for Whitman. “Don’t You Take Anything Seriously?” is a mélange of elements and characteristics that trusts the viewer to look closely enough at the image to discern Whitman’s mischief without a title to point it out. There’s a striped animal body with a foxtail, hoofed back feet, and cat-paw front feet. Atop its head is a long swoosh structure that goes up to a crowned and beatifically smiling cloud, glimmering with sparkle lines.

This drawing is goofy and creepy all at the same time. It made me want to buy a football franchise and use it as my logo, just to see burly guys with it on the sides of their helmets. If this is where Whitman is going, then we should follow along.

Tags: , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

She made me a peanut butter and banana sandwichwithout bread. Now that's art.

by Geoff Dunkak on ADF Review: Queering Objects and Decoding the Body in Cherdonna's Clock that Mug or Dusted (Arts)

Maybe the lack of young people in attendance is partly because of the way the NC Gay and Lesbian Film …

by Jonathan H on A Twenty-One-Year-Old Finds a Welcoming Space at the Twenty-Two-Year-Old N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation