Born in the Netherlands and currently based there, Joost de Jonge evinces the assertive drama of his country’s participation in Modernism. This neo-Modernist combines the unleashed energy, the undulating line and agitated texture, of Dutch abstract expressionism — in particular but not limited to CoBrA’s buoyant, muscular primitivism — with the stark, color-driven compositional reasoning of De Stijl and other geometric tendencies.
But we should not regard de Jonge simply as a perfectly Dutch distillation, a painterly version of genever; he took his education and has cultivated his profile throughout Europe, studying, showing, and finding patronage in Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, and elsewhere. This exhibition re-introduces de Jonge to the American audience he began attracting at the beginning of the century.
European artists struggle with the weight of history, actual and mythic, to an extent almost unimaginable to Americans. Rather than fend off that history and that mythology, de Jonge embraces them, practicing a kind of spiritual and intellectual neo-classicism even as his art manifests a much rawer impulse.
Behind the work seen here, for instance, is the legend, part ancient religion and part modern poetry – and psychology – of Orpheus, the hapless demi-god who twice loses his beloved Eurydice. Notably, Orpheus first woos, then later tries to free, the object of his ardor with the music he produces on his harp – a music that can vanquish obstacles but not fate. Music is a preoccupation of de Jonge’s, who has long regarded his – and effectively all — abstraction as responding to musical principles and experiences. Carrying this regard to theoretical levels, de Jonge recognizes and even elucidates parallels between visual art and music – a discourse that continues and “modernizes” the ancient Greek rhetorical form of ekphrasis. Working with poets, essayists, musicians, and fellow artists around the world, de Jonge has established a loose ekphrastic network, one you might say provides a practical as well as theoretical approach to the pan-artistic Gesamtkunstwerk. In the meantime, however, the Dutch painter pursues his expression – his godly narratives and ungodly images – in the privacy of his studio.