This month at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery, Colin C. Jorgensen’s, or Cojo’s, first solo show takes on individual psychology through an accessible and exciting project. A combination of bold pop style, thematically organized colors, and exaggerated comic book personas, 10(S)ubjects bombards the viewer with intense images and themes from the moment they enter the show until their exit. This is not to say that the show is overwhelming or disorganized, but that it has a wealth of content within each of its paintings, and they are not easily exhausted, even after multiple viewings.
Currently, six of ten planned 10(S)ubjects paintings hang in the gallery; four more will be added before the completion of the show. These main subjects are complemented by three smaller and more focused pieces. iBaby, Small Pond, and Entropy were born from Cojo’s year-long sketch-a-day project, like the other characters featured in the 10(S)ubjects paintings. The 365 sketches he created during that 2005-2006 period formed the population of the 10(S)ubjects universe, with each sketched character inhabiting one of the themed 8-ft canvases that address the central themes of the show. Cojo presents each theme—(S)ea, (S)ocialite, (S)traphanger, (S)pace, (S)torytime, (S)ex, (S)uperhero, (S)ports, (S)in and (S)lumberland—as a vital creative interest of his childhood that has continued to be a part of his personality as an adult. He proposes that every individual can isolate ten Subjects that defined and outlined their creative impulses as a child—and although interests, personalities, and expression evolve as one grows up and out of childhood into the adult world, these ten subjects remain vital and relevant. Cojo elaborated to me,
There are things you discover you are interested in, things you stumble into, or are introduced to by friends or family. Your 10 is constantly evolving, but your childhood 10 exists almost as a time capsule, because it was there, and those things you were fascinated by are still there in your memory. They are unique though because they are memory of something that isn’t a tangible thing, it’s a memory of a subject matter of a daydream, of the feelings you had for specific flights of fantasy. There isn’t really a word for that in English.
(S)ea, (S)ocialite, (S)traphanger, (S)pace, (S)ex, and (S)in are currently on display. Collectively, they create a new sense of aesthetic normal for the viewer, with an intensity of colors and energy crammed into each painting among exaggerated images of sexuality, violence, motion, and emotion. From a kaleidoscopic universe of sketched characters, the show settles into cohesive portals to the world of each subject. 10(S)ubjects is louder than the other pieces on display in Castle Fitzjohns, and grabs the visitor’s attention despite being located physically further into the space.
Each of the Subjects deserves its own in-depth examination, really. I returned to the gallery after the opening to view them in peace and quiet (an environment I soon realized that the paintings themselves will not permit to exist), and look forward to a third viewing when the four remaining works join the rest of the subjects in public view. After nine years of work, from collaging the subjects together, sketching and coloring, re-organizing, and ultimately painting the themed pieces, each one reveals a jam-packed window of a hyperbolic scene. While all the paintings are drawn from the same larger palette, each discrete world has an overarching tone set by a few dominant colors that enforce its mood and subject matter. (S)ex is surprisingly explicit and detailed, and bright pink, as comic-book flesh tones are wont to be. In a world of cartooned and exaggerated features, some characters and body parts are more realistic and detailed than others, pulling the painting towards the real world while its overemphasized features and images firmly anchor it in the realm of caricature. Bearing in mind that these subjects developed in childhood despite their influence in adulthood, no balance of images could be more suitable. The child’s view of sex is imagined and disproportionate, influenced by cartoons and popular culture; the adult tempers this view with a dose of reality and personal experience, but can rarely cast these early impressions aside. In the same vein, (S)in is appropriately vicious and sharp. The child fears Hell and monsters, fiery sharp-nosed devils and cruel ideas depicted in harsh oranges and greys—phobias that may pale when compared to the real-life sins of adulthood, but do not leave the psyche. The combination of fantastical cartoons and doses of realism prevent the painting from falling too squarely in the fantasy world; detailed skeletal images ground the characters in the viewer’s world, despite their outlandish appearance. Across the room, (S)pace’s imagined and alien figures remain accessible through its less cluttered composition. Its color scheme parallels that of (S)ea, a world that is technically more real, but remains foreign, the subject of a child’s imagination and creation as well as adult curiosity and scientific research.
The final elements of the show, (S)torytime, (S)uperhero, (S)ports, and (S)lumberland, will be intricate and character-heavy, adding an emphasis on pop culture to the existing set. Each draws on familiar material, from Marvel and DC’s cast of characters to athletic icons and traditional children’s tales. Cojo’s background, including stints at Marvel and ESPN Magazine, feed these pieces in particular. Once they are completed, they will join the rest of the Subjects at Castle Fitzjohns. Stay tuned to find out when Cojo will wrap up his work and round out the show!