Kenneth Baker on Jason Jägel "From the Sky Rivers Look Like Snakes"

Part of a 3 show review, here is one of our favorite reviews of "From the Sky Rivers Look Like Snakes," by the well-respected San Francisco Chronicle critic Kenneth Baker (published Saturday March 8th). SF Chronicle logo

Jägel at 16

"Second generation Mission School" might be the proper peg for the work of Jason Jägel at Gallery 16.

Chris Johanson, a founding figure of the Mission School had a large part in "Energy That Is All Around," the survey of that local early '90s phenomenon seen recently at the San Francisco Art Institute, and soon to open in Manhattan. Although Jägel is only a few years younger than Johanson, their works bear a strong family resemblance.From the Sky install shot

Jägel's drawing, like Johanson's, has echoes of untutored doodling and a sense of direct feed from the street.

But Jägel appears more mindful of earlier art sources. A painting such as "Animal Nature" (2014) brings to mind the chopped-up spaces of early German Expressionist landscapes. Crisply defined shapes in bold color signal awareness of a sensibility such as Ellsworth Kelly's and gray-on-gray patterns of brushstrokes generate a kind of tachiste camouflage.

The picture's interior feels dangerous, like the aftermath of a collapse of stage scenery. Areas of unpainted linen contribute to the palette of "Animal Nature" and offer a reassuring, though also false, toehold in undisfigured reality.

The 16 show samples a full spectrum of Jägel's work, from tiny wall-mounted assemblages, to big, stop-sign-simple paintings to crowded gouache on paper images invaded by scrawl and sculptures that might almost pass for things found alongside country roads.

"Everything in Between" (2014), a tight floor-to-ceiling stack of painted cardboard boxes, brings to mind another artist long associated with Gallery 16: Tucker Nichols. But Jägel may well think of the piece as an offhand tribute to Constantin Brancusi: his own "Endless Column."

The humor of Jägel's art, its slightness combined with formal alertness, its debt to low culture sources and nostalgia for a less calculating art scene make it feel sympathetic and necessary.