jason pollen

The Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art (KCJMCA) continues its 20th Anniversary Season with JASON POLLEN wounded / healing, a solo exhibition at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom.

JASON POLLEN wounded / healing

In the blink of an eye our lives may be thrown out of equilibrium due to sudden illness or loss, altering our sense of self, our relationships, and our perception of the world around us. JASON POLLEN wounded / healing is a solo exhibition of new abstract and figurative works by Kansas City-based artist and longtime KCAI Professor Jason Pollen that considers the physical and emotional vulnerability inherent within the human condition and the miraculous and intentional journey toward healing, understanding, and adaptation.

On a more intimate level, these works also chronicle the physical and emotional journey of one artist who overcame a series of corrective back surgeries that nearly cost him his life. Using his artwork as a vehicle for expressing his contemplation of individual mortality, Pollen addresses feelings of anxiety as well as a strong will to both live and create in abstract works that exhibit a rough and expressive immediacy not found in his past oeuvre.

Created first from bedside, then wheelchair, and finally in a return to his studio to prepare for this exhibition, these works evoke a determination and curiosity to explore material ideas at a frenetic pace, and each image pulses with an energy that may be felt through dyed, stained, torn, and pierced fabric, stitches, and in some instances within the gaze of human onlookers. Direct, honest, and unblinking, Pollen takes us on a personal and universal journey … from wounded to healing.


‘Wounded/Healing’ offers powerful artworks about our fragile bodies

   NICK MALEWSKI, Special to the Star.  Aug 7, 2011

Kansas City artist Jason Pollen received a hard lesson in physical frailty when he underwent multiple back surgeries and was subsequently confined to a bed for almost two years.

This experience inspired “Wounded/Healing,” Pollen’s stimulating solo exhibit at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom, featuring 18 fabric works that reflect on vulnerabilities of the body.

While still in the hospital, Pollen, who was chair of the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute until last year, started making small cloth compositions. These were later combined to make larger works after he regained a greater range of motion.

Deftly crafted, “49 Survivors” consists of several small abstract compositions stitched to a fabric support measuring 42-by-44 inches. The title suggests people who have become victims of disaster. Indeed, Pollen said, the work is about family and friends who have been afflicted by all manners of malady.

Although the subject matter is somber, the visual effects are lively. Colorful silk cutouts and hints of pigment become organic shapes resembling cell structures.

“Freed Radicals,” a beautifully understated work made of felted wool on cotton canvas, focuses on cell damage. Free radicals are atoms that have become harmful to cells in the body. This phenomenon is implied in the work by the tiny cellular shapes in the lower portion that seem to have split from the group of shapes in the upper portion.

Theoretically, free radicals are responsible for aging and, eventually, death.

Mortality figures prominently in Pollen’s ambitious series of portraits hanging on both sides of the gallery entrance. Although the portraits, painted and stitched on canvas, are based on photographs of family and friends, many are rendered in styles reminiscent of Egyptian funerary masks and mummy portraits.

One shows a reductive reproduction of a young man with a long, narrow face. Another shows a meticulous modeling of a man with a mustache and beard.

Some of Pollen’s most intriguing works are those that touch on childhood security.

“A Safe Place to Play,” for instance, depicts Washington Heights, the New York City neighborhood where the artist grew up. Frayed scraps of canvas, erratic needlework and light smudges of graphite suggest buildings, streets and landmarks viewed from above.

“Sanctuary,” also part of this series, represents a place where Pollen spent his youth. The trauma of his surgeries, it seems, has left marks on the depiction of his childhood. Raised curvilinear contours that bear a resemblance to sutures cut across the aerial landscape.

Even after Pollen was able to get out of bed, it was another year before he could walk without assistance.

“Moves,” an intricate arrangement of linen rectangles and dense patches of stitching, appears to illustrate limited movements within restricted space. In what looks like the diagram of a room, lines of red thread trace courses of passage.

Pollen’s experience nearly cost him his life. But, as this show makes evident, he is capable of turning an undesirable circumstance into a satisfying body of work.