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In Bold Blood
Jordan Eagles’ Media Inform The Messages In His Accomplished Paintings
BLOODY-MINDED: Jordan Eagles' "Infinity Of Heavenly Bodies."
BLOODY-MINDED: Jordan Eagles' "Infinity Of Heavenly Bodies." .
Jordan Eagles: Orbs and Energy

When an artist selects media to convey a set of ideas, it is not something to be taken casually. The visual matter that conveys the energy within the work enters into equal partnership with the aesthetic processes of its manipulator to secure its impact. Jordan Eagles’ interplanetary paintings in Orbs and Energy, currently on view at Fells Point’s Touchet Gallery, are made of precious and semiprecious substances that have been layered and sealed, protected within industrial coatings and materials. And he paints with copper dust, ground lazurite glass, and blood.

Each of these ingredients is loaded with history and symbol. More loaded even than the archetypal forms--the circles and semicircles that dissect, eclipse, and overlap or explode from the center--articulated in this New York artist’s satiny, highly polished, reliquary paintings.

The conveyance of potent ideas and iconography through the use of blood has carried image-making across many eras. From its documentary presence in the Lascaux caves’ hunting scenes to ecstatic medieval Christian mortification practices; from African and Aztec shamanistic ritual vessels to satanic cult markings and conventions; and ultimately to a few masochistic contemporary performance artists (such as Chris Burdon, Orlon, and Ron Athey), the exploitation of blood has been reserved for the most raw survival instincts and the most profound efforts to reach or reproduce the supernatural. Those traditions recognize in blood the opposing forces of being both tainted with death or vice and consecrated with benevolence.

If there was ever a medium for the moment, it is blood. We are regular witnesses to violent televised scenes for which we bear a passive if not active responsibility. Victims’ blood is broadcast nightly from a sidewalk in various American cities and far away in the Middle East, the demure reminder of the tidal sanguinary river of crisis and sacrifice lapping at our curbs. Later in the night, we may suckle our detached fascination on a humbling number of popular crime-scene programs--such is blood’s profane urge.

On a good day, though, we might also observe it slowly filling an orbiting plastic bag, or offering the continuance of family and species, a great surge of liquid crimson to bless and lubricate the hope-filled arrival of a new pint-sized person. And while it is impossible to extract blood from its own fierce cultural provenance, it is the sacred consideration of blood that primarily compels and inspires Eagles’ paintings. In a manner, his Orbs and Energy paintings are almost like centrifuges, spinning out the impurities that intermingle with kindly white cells in order to isolate them.

Eagles’ supplementary media--the sky-blue lapis lazuli of Egyptian royalty and 14th-century manuscripts--alchemically intermingled with sparkling copper dust sets up a visually volatile mixture. His mysterious method of capturing the quixotic essences of these materials in strata of cheesecloth, plexiglass, and UV resins is really quite astonishing. No photo could possibly do these paintings of intersecting circles and planes adequate justice. Judging them solely by photographs, you may conclude that you’ve seen enough of mandalas and mandorlas in their abstract art. In a photograph, too, all that allusive captured blood and copper dust in various stages of congealed oxidation ebbs into customary brushstrokes in various shades of alligatored rust.

It is the physical experience of the work that will completely change your mind. The sequential depth that Eagles takes you through in the time code of his paintings functions both micro- and macrocosmically. But building from that, and the metaphoric potential of his materials, is the awareness of how the sensory experience of something is so much more spiritually abundant and socially instructive than the representation of it. It leads you to understand how virtual experience--the kind we receive from our electronic perceptions of the world--is so harmfully artificial and lacking. Maybe it is why so many severed limbs are required of our TV programming, to reach a palpable critical mass that satisfies our primal instincts.

Eagles’ deep-dish paintings--the big works, not the little souvenir paintings on white plexiglass--uniquely possess that sensory critical mass. They are a geode-lustrous, medically indeterminate, exquisitely bloodcurdling journey into the astral origins of life. Go see.



Reprinted from The Baltimore City Paper