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Aspen Art Museum


Joel Mesler

Untitled (Mountain High)
Pigment on Linen
70 x 50 in (178 x 127 cm)
Kindly donated by the artist and Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn of LGDR.
Estimate: $100,000–$150,000


Familiar expressions, song lyrics, and references to popular culture call out to us from Joel Mesler’s paintings. “Sunset Sunrise,” “Play the hits,” “Good Vibes,” “Take it Easy,” “You Deserve Great Things,” or simply “Love” are spelled out in an evolving array of elaborate typographical experiments: the letters on occasion formed by poured drinks and condiments, helium balloons, and neon signs.

These words sit atop bold, graphic images and patterned backgrounds that nod to the language of design as much as art history. Mesler presents universally recognizable themes and images, underscored by his personal experience and, in particular, his childhood memories. For example, the banana leaf pattern that recurs throughout his work references the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles—a key site in his parents’ traumatic divorce. While a recent exhibition with LGDR, entitled Pool Party, referred to another aspect of his life growing up in LA in the 1980s. These are the “substories” that Mesler says lie beneath these at first seemingly cheerful, vibrant images.

The landscape of Untitled (Mountain High), 2022, has it all. Writ large up top are the words “Mountain High” spelled out by the clouds. In their artificiality, the fluffy white forms suggest pleats of cotton wool or squirts of shaving foam, which bleed into birds and specks spattered across the sky. The mountains themselves are made up of swathes of strident animal print. The river down below, with its crackling surface, recalls David Hockney’s LA swimming pools. At the foot of the canvas sits the dark, forbidding forest. The image is enticing and somehow unsettling; the innocence invoked by the simplified imagery is underscored by surreal humor that carries a dark edge.

Artist Bio

Born in 1974 in Los Angeles, Mesler received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999. His work has been the subject of exhibitions at LGDR, Palm Beach and London (2022); Lévy Gorvy, Hong Kong (2021); David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Harper’s Books, New York (2020); and Simon Lee, London (2018). The artist will have a forthcoming solo survey at the Long Museum, Shanghai. He lives and works in East Hampton, New York.

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