This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Philip Hitchcock describes the current exhibit, Drunk on Color, at his phd Gallery on Cherokee Street as “high voltage oil on canvas.” He calls Jo Jasper Dean’s work “intoxicating” and “amplified.” Hitchcock is right.
Dean’s paintings communicate heat and energy that is as intense and enjoyable as a top-shelf cocktail consumed on a tropical beach.
Dean’s small canvases bring single isolated subjects to the surface. An arrogant lizard looks out from his technicolor world. A tightly angled crab, a seahorse, an ostrich … disrupts a diagonal horizon line to confront the viewer. Dean’s tilted, vertical perspective gives these animal head shots a wry expression.
Her larger canvases offer a more complex orientation. They are filled with three dimensional, luscious plant life. The softly curving lines of plant plumes create deep spaces. Dynamic composition draws the viewer deep into the painting.
Dean’s compartmentalized landscapes are like looking at the world through the frame of a rolled up piece of paper. She presents a disembodied flash of nature placed against a tranquil sky. The effect is dreamlike and totally intoxicating.
Fear not the experience. You will not be hung over after indulging in Dean’s “high voltage oil.” Elements within the work are arranged in pleasing balance. Detailed images are set against a thickly textured, abstract paint surface. Wildly bright yellows and oranges that could burn your retinas are mitigated by cool purples and blues.