The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
In Center City, James Oliver Gallery (JOG) has just opened a solo show entitled “Colossal The Small,” which highlights the work of Yis Goodwin, also known by his moniker NoseGo. This talented graffiti-style artist includes dozens of small, framed paintings in the JOG show as well as googly-eyed terrariums – quite the deviation from his usual large-scale murals (although he fortunately rendered a few of those in the space too, just for good measure).
On the ascent up the JOG's high staircase, one encounters a NoseGo wall piece near the top before even setting foot in the gallery. Blasting upwards, parallel to the stairs, is a sci-fi looking panda head in a glass jar, metallic tendrils flailing behind it like rocket exhaust. A face on the glass exterior mirrors the panda's, and these dual, adorable countenances do well to prepare the viewer for an uplifting and exciting exhibit.
While the staircase mural is a permanent addition to the gallery, a couple temporary ones also wrap around the interior walls, but the vast majority of the work here is composed of paintings under a few feet. These smaller scale versions of NoseGo's larger images still serve to concisely capture his fun, fantastical and freewheeling style. His scenes are surreal, to be sure, and feature amalgamations of comical faces, cartoony characters, realistic animals, and floating shapes, just to name a few.
These composite creatures seem to be slapped together on a whim, but their forms are precise and lucid despite their dreaminess, demonstrating this artist's delicate balance of skill and improvisation. One example of this style is the painting “#1,” which depicts a bulbous, purple, mustachioed figure emerging from the mouth of a crocodile. A puff of black smoke obscures much of the lower section and a floating light bulb lingers above the action. Rainbows and a black rose hide in the shadows of the smog while the purple man extends his giant foam sports fan finger declaring “#1.”
Elsewhere, NoseGo produces a “Pool Party” unlike any you have ever seen. A mechanical trunk and red legs extend from a glass, cork-topped bottle, which stands on a round patch of grass. These features mimic the floating elephant inside, who appears to be the only one actually enjoying the water. Above the cork, a leopard roars its way out of a gratuitous explosion, seemingly angry that its elephantine meal is completely inaccessible.
Some tinier pieces move away from the zoology in much of his work and instead transform everyday, inanimate objects into little beasts themselves. A spray paint can with a snout, a skateboard with a toothy grin, and a very surprised-looking joystick all within perfectly circular canvases round out the pigmented portion of his artwork.
As a totally unexpected turn of events, NoseGo teams up with Mandi Bompensa to construct tiny planters that directly reference his painted portrayals throughout the show. These glass terrariums, like his 2D art, have wide eyes and animal-like faces, and are occasionally topped by panda bears and hedgehogs. All of them contain living plants – mostly succulents and cacti – providing a touch of actual life for an artist that draws much of his symbolism from nature.
NoseGo's “Colossal The Small” has only been open for a few days, so there is plenty of time to stop in and spend time with the amazing creations of Yis Goodwin at JOG. The show will be up through May 4, when there is a closing reception from 6-9 p.m.
James Oliver Gallery is located at 723 Chestnut St., Philadelphia; email@example.com; jamesolivergallery.com.