Max Jansons – Seven Samurai – Nov 5th – Jan 8th 2017
Los Angeles-based artist, Max Jansons uses the samurai warriors in director Akira Kurosawa’s iconic 1954 film “Seven Samurai” as inspiration for a new painting composed of seven intimately scaled portraits.
Similar to the Commedia dell’arte masks of the Italian Renaissance, each samurai’s personality is revealed in precise lines and color — and reveals a psychological snapshot of human nature. The seven portraits use a closely cropped depiction of each of character’s face that echoes the movie industry “head-shot”.
Kurosawa’s film, an investigation into the meaning of the past, its relevance to modern times, and the different shades of human behavior, are in part what drew Jansons to use the characters as his subject. The memories of viewing the film “Seven Samurai” has profound meaning to the artist as he would watch the film with his father, an abstract painter, who passed away when Jansons was young.
The samurai’s commitment to his craft, unwavering and intense focus in the artist’s mind parallel those of a painter. Jansons’ intense devotion to the medium of painting and the qualities it possesses are much like a samurai’s own disciplined nature.
Jansons’ use of painting’s rich history and the process of reinvigoration of the old, antiquated, and sometimes forgotten, is a central theme in his own work. His choice of materials — linen primed with lead, paints ground in aged oils, pigments whose sources are now extinct, the use of hand cut tacks on the sides of his canvas — further this theme and enforce Jansons’ insistence on the handmade.
Jansons’ first exposure to painting was through the window and lens of abstraction. This can be felt in Jansons unique approach to the subject of portraiture and the “Seven Samurai.” His strong use of line, color and shape at times transform the portraits into arrangements of forms that reveal this honed knowledge of the language of abstraction, and draws parallels with artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella.
Also on view are six of Jansons’ predominately black and white abstract paintings. These six paintings use the language of abstraction to symbolically chart the six eras of the Japanese sword. From the ancient swords, or “Jokoto”, to the new swords, or “Shinsakuto”, each painting is poetically titled after a specific era of the Japanese sword. The titles illuminate and mark the passage of time between the works, and also imbues them with a sense of history that belies their vitality.