Since receiving his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1980 Jim Isermann’s career trajectory nicely divides in two; twenty years, 1980-2000, of what turned out to be extensive, chronological research of post war art and design filtered through popular culture and consumerism paired with an exploration of materials, craft and their construction of pattern. The subsequent twenty years, 2000-2020, are a bifurcated practice of site-specific public projects utilizing industrial processes, and a studio practice of labor-intensive painting, sculpture and the odd product design project. Throughout the forty years there are at least two overarching leitmotifs that connect all of the work. First this is work that is made by a gay man. That is not to say that the work is gay. The work is built upon camp, that particularly gay sensibility: the melancholy recognition of failure, its retrieval and recontextualization that communicates to like-minded individuals. There is also the celebration of the marginal and the decorative; the work’s populist sources. Secondly, Isermann finds nirvana in math, structural logic and geometric algorithms. The asymmetric only occurs as the result of a set of rules. What keeps him on this road is the unpredictable, the serendipitous moments that make the work imperfect, breathe and come alive.
Isermann’s most recent exhibition is Jim Isermann. Copy. Pattern. Repeat. curated by Brooke Hodge, Director of Architecture and Design at the Palm Springs Art Museum for PSAM’s Architecture and Design Center. The structure of the three-part exhibition is concentric. Thirty-two seminal Flower works from 1985-6 recreate an installation in a 25 x 25-foot gallery in the center of the A+DC, they are surrounded by twelve new shaped paintings that describe red and blue striped cubes in axonometric perspective. The Axonometric paintings and an earlier, related sculpture project featuring two stacked cubes stacked tip to toe are surrounded by Hedge. Hedge is a site-specific installation of thirty-seven different 139 x 56-inch vinyl decals applied to the floor to ceiling window walls that wrap the former bank building. The exhibition smartly demonstrates three ways Isermann approaches artmaking: installation or tableau, individual painting and sculpture and site-specific commission. C.P.R. opened January 25, 2020 and runs through 2020.