What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

February 23, 2023

Jake Kean Mayman
Le Maximum
February 4 - March 12, 2023

Jake Kean Mayman

Comprised of just six paintings strategically placed on the gallery walls to form a conversation with each other, Jake Kean Mayman's evocative exhibition Ergonoptics not only illustrates his technical skills as a painter, but also his conceptual wit. The title of the exhibition is a made-up word combining "ergonomics" and "optics" that both explains and confounds the work. The paintings range from the depiction of strange, uncanny objects like obscure medical devices and an ergonomic keyboard for one hand to single sheets of upright folded graph paper. Each large scale oil painting has a monochrome background, be it black, blue, green or light pink-orange. Within these colored fields, Mayman presents realistically rendered objects, strangely illuminated as if placed on seamless backdrops and softly lit with colored gels.

Suture Pad (Ethicon) 2023 greatly enlarges what is actually a small polypropylene suture pad designed for the practice of stitching skin. The flesh-toned pad is scored with straight lines and curves that represent different shapes of surgical incisions. It is an unusual subject for a painting and could easily be misinterpreted as a drawing template. In Mayman's presentation, it is larger than life and rests in an otherwise empty space, appearing more like a discarded mattress than a medical instrument. Suture Pad (Polydioxanone) 2023 is similar in color, though it depicts a suture pad with raised mouth-like shapes rather than thin recessed lines. One corner is raised at the edge and jumps off the canvas with trompe l'oeil veracity.

In contrast to these two flesh-toned works are two paintings with light blue backgrounds, matching the color of the lines on graph paper. Again, playing with trompe l'oeil, Mayman presents these creased pages standing upright as if dancing. In Coordinate Paper (Primary Scatter Plot, Off Grid Yellow) 2022, a small folded yellow paper dot jumps out from the background in the upper right corner of the painting and draws the viewer's eye diagonally down the composition to a filled in red square in the lower corner of the gridded paper. Coordinate Paper (Primary Scatter Plot, Off Grid Red), 2022 is in some ways a mirror image as here the dot at the top of the canvas is red whereas the filled in square is yellow. From a certain position in the gallery, these paintings can be viewed together allowing the viewer to compare and contrast their subtly different blue backgrounds and the intensity of their painted shadows.

The largest painting in the exhibition, Orthotic Leverage Augment (Gary Fay Articulated Fingers) 2023 features a disembodied arm that cuts across the horizontal of the canvas jutting out from a mottled black background. Attached to each finger is a brightly colored (purple, red, blue, yellow, green) mechanical extension. Are these devices meant to aid or to entertain? The beckoning hand is a curiosity, both inviting and off putting. Mayman is interested in where the natural and the technological intersect and in Ergonoptics, he has constructed a suite of paintings that juxtapose man-made objects (some designed to help the human body adapt to machines, others designed for the hand to mark upon) with pure color to explore how the optical and the ergonomic mix.