by Christopher Koza
If you’ve seen a local newspaper in the last week, you probably noticed a certain luminary whose artistic output has been embraced and commissioned by art directors and audiences. Last week in the Twin Cities, Renaissance man Jon Langford put his guitar away long enough from his performances at the Walker Art Center and Electric Fetus in-store to open his one-man art show at Rouge Buddha Gallery. This collection of paintings and etchings are in some instances visual companions to his music, and in others, seekers and claimers of uncharted territory.
acoustic music filled the tin roofed Rouge Buddha during the show’s opening,
mingling with the rapid and seemingly inspired conversations of wine-sipping
spectators. Dozens of Langford’s paintings lined the walls and were the
subject of intrigue on this opening-night party. With pieces ranging in size
from about 6” x 12” to 18” x 28”, and priced from $350
to $2,400, this show appeared accessible for both viewers and collectors. Originals
and high-quality limited edition reproductions or etchings were on display,
but there was hardly any noticeable drop-off in quality between them.
The process for Langford’s paintings in this series starts with crafting
the surface textures of the wood panels. Langford distresses layers of teal,
red and bronze paint, then scuffs them up to his liking before applying illustrations,
slogans and small decorative embellishments. The end result is reminiscent of
an old, worn-out advertisement like you’d find on the side of a general
store set on the main strip of a long-ago deserted ghost town. But the imagery
and text Langford incorporates are contemporary, giving the reaching hand of
influence a curious range of material.
piece benefits from having titles that relate to the artwork and provide an
access point for the viewer. Suggestive, dark-humored titles, such as “Executioner’s
Last Songs,” “We Grow These in Texas” (guess who shows up
on that one?), “Drinking, Cheating and Death” and “History
is Written by the Winner” all read as punch lines to jokes shared by the
growling guardians of a purgatory dripping with cynicism; normal every-day conversation
topics between Beetlejuice and Jarreth the Fairy King (David Bowie’s character
in the Labyrinth movie).
In his etchings, Langford accomplishes increasingly bizarre combinations. “Tom
Jones Levitation” depicts the beloved Welsh entertainer hovering above
a cruise ship in the form of a gigantic mindless balloon.
While his works are filled with a personal iconography of skull-faced cowboys
and slogan-bearing cherubs, Langford also presents renditions of celebrity songwriters
and legendary performers. Bob Wills, Big Bill Broomzy, the Carter Family, Hank
Williams, Johnny Cash and others receive the Langford treatment, as he threads
together vintage country figures and ties them to his own personal (Mekons/punk
rock) experiences. Head over to Rouge Buddha Gallery and discover the links
for yourself. ||
Jon Langford’s Solo Show runs through Mar. 18 at Rogue Buddha
Gallery, 357 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-. Gallery hours are Wed. & Thu. noon–4
p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 3–8 p.m.