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Patterns & Permutations — Justin Kingsley Bean at JAG Modern


[Patterns possess the ability to both comfort and refresh the eye. Joshua reviews a colorful show that blends patterns comfortably into their gallery space. — the Artblog editors]

The alliterative title of Justin Kingsley Bean’s solo show at JAG Modern is an apt description of Bean’s artistic oeuvre. Patterns & Permutations–arrangements of color and geometric shapes–dominate the artist’s paintings. The mathematic exactness of Bean’s style is oddly soothing, despite the accosting power of the color that is everywhere in the small gallery. Bean has an evident interest in the forms, rhythms, and patterns of the everyday world that inspire his work.

The art and science of patterns

“Strange Distractor III,” oil on canvas, 62” x 62”, 2013

We learned from high school mathematics that a pattern occurs when a thing or things are arranged by a certain rule or set of rules. ABCABC is an example of a pattern. A permutation is a rearrangement of things on a list. Therefore ABC, BAC, and CBA are all permutations of the original pattern. Both of these mathematic functions run rampant throughout Patterns & Permutations, by means of patterns of shape and color that constantly develop into new patterns. These two functions serve as foundational keystones for Bean’s artistic process.

Bean’s painterly process begins with a surface diagram that maps out the intended structure and rhythm of the painting. By adding layers of different-colored paints, he creates a sense of both unification and differentiation–causing an optical tension, forcing the eye to move across the canvas in search of some form of pattern or connectivity.

The largest and most notable painting in the exhibition, “Strange Distractor III,” is a frontispiece for the entire exhibition. After applying several different colors, Bean etched clear lines between the shapes, exposing white canvas, and shoring up the many shapes. The pattern of opposing colors permutates into an almost endless quantity of different arrangements. Yet despite this abstraction, the painting still possesses a unifying quality.

Fitting puzzle pieces

“Progenitor (ii),” oil on canvas, 20” x 14”, 2014

Tucked away in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, JAG Modern, run by John Andrulis, is an unusual gallery. Previously serving as an antique store, the venue still possesses qualities reminiscent of its previous purpose. It is elevated from street level and has two large storefront windows that allow passers-by to view the interior.

Although the windows expose the gallery to the street, they pose a problem in terms of wall space. Yet, with so little wall space to work with, Andrulis and Bean curated a show that uses the large windows to its advantage. Natural light pours in, and Bean’s shapes dance and his colors radiate.

The windows also allow the paintings to play with the surrounding urban environment. In his artist statement, Bean mentions that he finds inspiration in the irregular borders of suburban and urban growth. Standing there in the gallery, while looking at Bean’s exhibition, I couldn’t help but notice that through the front window, I could see One and Two Liberty Place and the Comcast Center beyond the tree-lined 16th Street.

Bean’s exhibition is an artistic representation of the rhythm and pattern that is commonplace in urban environments. The layered view through the front window underscores this in a way that no Old City gallery could. The Victorian structures of 16th Street give way to skyscrapers, and reinforce the patchwork pattern of old and new. The playfulness between Bean’s art and the surrounding environment bring to mind Oscar Wilde’s aphorism that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

JAG Modern is located at 1538 Pine Street at the intersection of 16th and Pine. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 pm. Patterns & Permutations, will continue through June 22.