SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS / SCENE MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 15–21, 2013
BY JOSEF WOODARD
JACK N. MOHR, THE BERLIN-BORN ARTIST AND HEAD OF THE ARTAMO GALLERY
FOR MANY YEARS, PUTS HIS OWN ARTISTIC EFFORTS UP FRONT WITH 'THE BLUE WALL’
You may know him as the tall, intrepid gallery keeper with the German accent on Anapamu, who has maintained the Artamo Gallery for several years. But Jack N. Mohr is an artist at the core of his various enterprises. The graphic arts-trained Berlin native, who has lived and has shown in Santa Barbara since 1997, has periodically included slices of his creative life in Artamo group shows, as a multi-media artist interested in a diversity of 2-D and 3-D directions.
This month, though, it is the art-making side of his endeavors, which is more front and center in a rare case when his gallery forthrightly presents his art in the form of the intriguing series, “The Blue Wall.” Part of what makes this series so interesting is its picture of an evolution, via variations-on-a-theme, and also a window on an artist's personal history, from an earlier moment.
Whereas many artists show current or recent works and projects, Mr. Mohr digs back a decade to the mostly 2003-based vintage of these abstract, blue-suffused pieces. He was in an experimental mood and mode at the time, allowing one piece to influence the next, while adhering to a given conceptual and material theme. Mr. Mohr has combined rough-hewn geometries, a limited, color palette and, to nudge into three-dimensionality, such “real world” materials as patches of nylon mesh, string, shards of canvas, and nails — the pointy ends and
the flat heads deployed for expressive effect.
At the center of the show, and living up to the show's title by taking up one wall of the gallery space, is the promised, “Blue Wall,” a set of a dozen 20" by 16" pieces conspiring towards a larger whole, but existing as individual pieces with individual personalities. Geometric considerations are loosely considered with angular and soft, hazy-edged lines defining a structure, which is more atmospheric than architectural.
All is not purely or definitively abstract here. As with other art in Mr. Mohr's body of work, we get industrial resonances in the mix. Spray-paint hues are used and fused in the color areas. Crafty, if slight, airs of danger are implied by the rhythmic rows of red-painted (bloodied?) nail heads, and the suggestion of fencing — or life in cages — in the mesh areas.
Actually, the Artamo window hosts a piece of a different color, the large “Red Triptych,” which sets the pace and visual feel for the blue series inside, with its mingled red and black, white/gray diagonals and surfaces punctuated by protruding pegs, like the vigas in Southwestern architecture. As if organized as framing devices, the large window piece has ' a commonality with the “last” piece in the left-to-right sequence of artworks, “Red Blocks.” This 2004 work seems to synthesize aspects of its adjacent, blue brethren, but with three red, almost-square forms floating in a vertical row, flanked by six pegs to the right and an arcing swatch of mesh to the left.
Underscoring the fruits of the uber-work Mr. Mohr dubbed, “The Blue Wall” is the fundamental notion in the creative arts that, far from materializing in a flash, much art is a step along the way, a process in motion. One thing leads to another, and small ideas spiral into larger ones, and then the artist might be on to the next chapter in a long, morphing narrative without a legible game plan.
Suddenly, the artist might look back -ten years hence and see a pattern seeking and deserving the light of gallery day. Voilà, “The Blue Wall.”
THE SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT, JUNE 2006
BY BETH TAYLOR-SCHOTT
I’ve never realized how much I identify with whichever piece of art I happen to be standing in front of. Apparently, there is a deep, primitive part of my brain that does not understand visual illusion and that sees the whole work-of-art-as-window-on-the-world thing as nonsense. This part of my brain takes each canvas not just as an archetypal skin, but as my skin, and furthermore, as my body.
As I mentioned, I hadn't realized any of this, or not, at any rate, experienced it consciously, or even viscerally, until I walked through a gallery hung with Jack Mohr’s works. I began to realize it then because of how seriously those works messed with that very part of my brain.
In one predominant compositional type — examples are “Big Red,” “Eruption 1,” “Metal Blades,” and “Vertical White” — the work of painting has quite clearly been performed across most of the canvas. The paint is opaque, thick brush strokes are at times evident, and the surface has been given body through the introduction of sand and other texturizers. In the center of this worked canvas appears, as if torn into it, a jagged, painterly, lusciously edged wound. What does the canvas reveal by rending itself thus? The glint of metallic mesh, seeping out like a cyborgian under-girding that the painting process has tried in vain to cover over. Nearby, paint-encrusted twine seems to produce the same outline as clotted blood running along a sharp edge. Elsewhere, nails protrude through the canvas from the back, so that if you put your hand out toward the paint — a basic urge we must always have, but usually ignore — you might prick your finger. These are not the sort of nails anyone has ever been crucified with, surely. No, they are smallish, neat, industrially produced nails, and yet the discomfort they produce seems incommensurate with their size. Standing in front of such a painting, one begins to wonder if a nail is ever really only a nail.
Did I mention how beautiful all this was, when you can get the aesthetic part of your brain to kick in and notice the shiny surfaces, the rich colors, and the prismatic impression created by abstractly applied chiaroscuro? I don’t think I shivered looking at the works — not visibly, anyway. But more than once I made an involuntary noise, something like a small, half-distressed sigh.
CASA MAGAZINE, SANTA BARBARA, FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2006
BY JEFFERSON HAWKINS
Jack N. Mohr mounts a two-part exhibit at ARTAMO Gallery.
Jack N. Mohr’s paintings and sculpture form a visual contradiction. Bold forms of light and color contrast with industrial hues and textures: nails and wire mesh. Mohr’s exhibit of his recent work will be shown at ARTAMO Gallery in two segments. Part one will be on display through June 4, and after the gallery’s summer break, part two, with a different set of works, will show from June 21 to July 9.
“As a child I was fascinated with the beauty of a power plant or oil refinery, ”Mohr shared. “At the same time I was afraid of it. It is this contradiction of life’s beauty with its darker side that I try to express in my art.”
Born in Berlin, the son of a graphic designer, Mohr began drawing at an early age. He studied art and visual communication at the State University for Creative Arts and graduated with a Masters’ degree in graphic design. He founded his own design studio, and earned international recognition for his posters, logo, and trademark designs.
While pursuing his career as a commercial designer Mohr began working with collages and acrylic paintings, later also exploring photography and printmaking.
A Santa Barbara resident since 1997, Mohr prefers mixed media painting and three-dimensional work. “I use a variety of mediums and often create conceptual series,” Mohr explained. “I prefer to paint with mixed media and acrylics on canvas or work with ceramics, but I also use collage and prints to explore my themes.”
His art has been exhibited in solo and group shows in galleries and institutions in Germany and the United States and is part of many private and corporate collections.
“I want my art to make people think, not just be a decorative object,” Mohr said. “Sometimes people look at a work of mine and say ‘I hate it.’ I say,‘Good, at least you have an opinion!’”
SANTA BARBARA DAILY SOUND, FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2006
BY LYNN M. HOLLEY, DAILY SOUND CORRESPONDENT
An array of abstract mixed media paintings and wall and floor sculptures by German-born artist Jack Mohr, dominate the ARTAMO Gallery at 11 West Anapamu Street. A reception will be held tomorrow from 6–9.The exhibition titled Contradiction Part I shows through June 4. Part II of Mohr’s themed work will be on display from June 21–July 9.
Taking obvious cues from many early and well-known German abstract artists, Mohr has developed his own practice of working in a variety of media to achieve striking visual effects.
Using everything from corrugated cardboard to linen and nails, Mohr’s art is definitely not a benign force on the stark white gallery walls.
This exhibition represents Mohr’s work over the past three years or so. It is a very controlled mixture of media, texture and placement.
Sharp edges contrast with patches of linen and smooth lacquered, shiny surfaces. His works are vivid and interesting, even the pure white porcelain wall sculptures contrast nicely with larger heavy paintings sporting bright hues in red, silver and metallic blue.
Mohr's intention seems almost obvious in allowing the viewer to just immerse themselves in the abstract qualities of his works.
Although nails crop out of most of his art, there is little need to analyze their existence. Mohr's creative application of paint mixed with oddities of random substances over-shines any back story or deep truth they might hold.
However, a bit of fun can be had with his large painting titled Four Ways to Get Through a Blue Day. It can be placed in any direction to acquire the intended perspective.
Mohr’s only work that seems to provoke any serious emotion is one of two sculpted silver-based towers.
Titled Breaking News Column, the board is wrapped in a collage of newsprint bleating out disasters with a broken side panel and a few nails climbing up the sides.
Created in 2001, it is hard not to seethe influence of 9/11, no matter how much Mohr pleads otherwise. The other tower is of similar texture, but without news or print or nails, just a mixture of silver and red textures. Titled Red NetWorks Column, it was created in 2003.
Mohr has lived in Santa Barbara since 1997. He is a graduate of the University for Creative Arts in Berlin and has a Master's Degree in graphic design.
His early training in Berlin shows throughout his work. Each piece is a clean and precise expression of contemporary abstract art.
CASA SANTA BARBARA, FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2003
Jack N. Mohr’s latest work, Progression, states a big change. The new series presents an array of geometric forms, which tumble into labyrinth of interwoven depths, to finally float in a balance of chaos and order. Progression is on view at the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau and Film Commission through the end of December.
After a period of working with ceramics and creating semi-abstract acrylic paintings, these pieces show a complete new approach, while maintaining elements of past experimentation in acrylic, solvent, and spray paint conibinations.
“Usually I create a series of work to cover every aspect of an idea or a theme,” explained Mohr. “My sometimes icon-like art expresses feelings, reflections and situations. This often goes together with the exploration of surfaces, structures and the changing effects of light and shade.”
Born in Berlin, Germany, Jack studied Art and Visual Communication at the State University for Creative Arts in Berlin and graduated with a Masters degree in Graphic Design. His design work is represented in the poster collections of two museums in Berlin and can be found in various private and corporations collections.
In addition to his graphic design work, Jack always created art, mostly collages and paintings. When, in 1998, he was introduced to working in ceramics, he became so fascinated by the versatility of this medium that three-dimensional work now is an important part of his artistic endeavor.
In 1997 Jack N. Mohr came to Califomia and has lived in Santa Barbara since. His work has been shown in numerous galleries and institutions in Germany as well as in the United States.
SCENE MAGAZINE / SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, NOVEMBER 21, 2003
BY CHARLES DONELAN
The new exhibit of mixed media work by Jack N. Mohr now on view at the Santa Barbara Visitors and Conference Bureau takes two strong directions — up and in. In the works loosely grouped as “Progression,” the artist draws the viewer into the depths of the pictorial space with a shifting array of geometric shapes.
In the canvases grouped as “Networks,” the dominant force is a vertical stripe, often. Complicated on the surface by other elements embedded, from twine and nylon mesh to nails. The result is a pleasing experience in the present that bears fascinating traces of the past.
The “Progression” pictures make use of an industrial palette of reflective gray, blue, red and green, but they do so in a way that softens the effect and steers the viewer away from their associations with the man-made and toward the natural world. “Blue World,” with its aggressive, angular facture, achieves the paradox of cubism, in which the multiplication and repetition of planes and surfaces results in a stronger sense of the whole.
“Light over S.B.” is almost a cubist landscape, but again, there are hints of something else in the handling and associations of the materials.
The “Networks” series is about connection. Once upon a time, abstract painters acted like priests or sorcerers. With every canvas they asserted the connection between here and beyond.
The abstract pictorial convention most closely associated with transcendence lies traditionally been the “zip,” a vertical line or stripe that extends unbroken from the bottom to the top of the picture plane.
Perhaps the best known examples are by Barnett Newman, but everyone has at one time or another seen one of these pictures — they are archetypal.
In “Big Red,” a large, horizontally shaped canvas, Mohr confronts Barnett Newman’s best-known work, the big red canvas known as “Vir Heroicus Sublimus,” directly. Mohr’s “Big Red” is a great picture, at once studied and spontaneous in feeling, and extremely direct in its effect.
Another large horizontally organized canvas, “Two Bodies Spiked Red,” is identified as part of a Series of “String-works,” but is clearly from the same creative season. The strings that angle through the picture's black and white stripes create shapes that shift as they move through the red field, giving a sense of flowing.
This feeling returns in the three vertically organized canvases that make up the suite called “White Body.”
It's exciting to have someone with the depth and range of Jack N. Mohr working in Santa Barbara, and this show demonstrates that his commitment to exploration and progression in the fine arts is unflagging.
CERAMICS MONTHLY MAGAZINE, USA, SEPTEMBER 2003
BY JACK N. MOHR
In a recent review, an art critic described me as a “restless soul.” He referred to the way I work: focused, but in different disciplines at the same time — painting, collage, sculpture, and ceramics. I think he observed well.
My education in visual communication at the State University for creative Arts in Berlin, Germany, where I received a master’s degree in 1972, embraced the whole spectrum — from drawing and painting to graphic design, photography, typography and printing. At that time I preferred painting (usually acrylics and mixed media — oils take too long for a “restless soul”) and collage. But it has proven impossible to confine myself to only one medium or two.
Every day offers visual stimulation and inspiration to rearrange, to form, to design, to create. I would miss the exciting challenges, experiences, and new insights just working on with the medium I feel safe with. I love to switch between mediums, transfer my ideas from one discipline to another, to explore new areas of artistic expression, and to search for their limits. Today I paint, make collages and occasionally do prints, plus ceramics sculptures.
I moved from Berlin to Santa Barbara, California, in 1997. A year later, I had my first encounter with ceramics. It happened at the studio of Pat Kenny. While others in my group enjoyed the opportunity to form pots and cups, I sensed the potential of the medium, the chance to pursue new directions with my art.
I took thin slabs of the smooth gray-white material and began modeling stripes of clay into waves, cutting and twisting other shapes, and finally attached all to a flat 12-inch square. I cut holes in the square for wall hanging and left it at the studio to be glazed and fired. I wanted it to be completely white.
A few weeks later, when our group returned to Kenny’s studio, I could have sold my first ceramic, which I classified as a “relief-style image,” but I rejected the offer. I had come too fast. I had to reflect on my new medium first.
I was fascinated by the versatility of clay. I saw a chance to pursue several ideas I had developed decades earlier when I made an all-white relief of cardboard, wood and glue. With cardboard I reached the limit quickly, but today I think of this piece as the father of my “Topography of White” series.
Two weeks later I called Kenny and asked if she teach me how to work with clay. She agreed and I studying a day or two per week with her. And I learned fast, driven by a constant flow of ideas. The toughest part for my “restless soul” was dealing with the amount of time needed to finish a piece.
After a year and a half I had completed well 100 ceramic reliefs and small sculptures. Two sculptures were accepted into a juried show at the gallery of the Santa Barbara City College, and a few weeks later, at a studio show with Kenny, I sold my first ceramic pieces. Then the owner of Delphine Gallery in Santa Barbara became interested in my work and offered me a solo show, my first in the US.
I have a lot of respect for the entire history of ceramics. The effects of different kinds of firing amaze me. But for my work, I want predictable results. I see my pieces only in white. Color would distract from the meaning and originality of the design, destroying the liveliness of the ever-changing variations of white, which depend so much on the source and angle of light.
My working process always involves a conceptual component: When I come up with a new notion for something, I normally envision a whole series and imagine how the pieces would look in various environments.
When creating new pieces, my inner eye draws them, corrects them until the design is acceptable. Then I need to make a thumbnail sketch, very loose, just to remember later what I had planned. Normally, once I draw on paper, more ideas evolve. Then, when time allows, I go into the studio, roll out the clay and start building. I rarely follow the original drawing exactly, the material flows differently, the work process, too, but in general, I stay with my initial thought.
I use a commercial gray-white body tempered with fine sand, a 50/50 mix of stoneware and porcelain, or pure porcelain. My glazes are all hand-mixed majolica types, containing tin for opaqueness; most are sprayed on, though some are brushed on. Firing is done in an electric kiln to Cone 5 or 6, with slow heating-up and cooling-down times.
My ceramic shapes and forms are becoming loser, bolder. The inclusion of other elements (rods, nails, black cords, etc.), which I began in the “Topography of White” series, has become an essential aspect. In life, everything has its facets—serene beauty on one side, often strangely disturbed and disrupted on the other. My art reflects and deals with such contradictions and uncommon combinations: smooth surfaces with rough, torn edges, nailed to its base, its framework of life.
THE SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT, VOL. 16, NO. 821, AUGUST 15–22, 2002
BY JOSEF WOODARD
Jack N. Mohr, the German-born and bred, and now Santa Barbara-based artist, is one of those certifiably restless creative souls whose peregrinations in different media and directions can breed confusion in logic-seeking art-watchers. A graphic designer who followed his fine art muse, he has worked with ceramics, painting, and then some. At the moment, you can find his mixed media sculptures at the Fielding Institute, alternately funky and mock-rational pieces with materials such as burnt naiis, cord, and lacquered steel.
Meanwhile, down at the Delphine Gallery, one encounters a very different aesthetic in his show, Flowers of the Night. Here, a series of acrylic paintings settles into a determined, serial pattern. Plant life is the immediate, ostensible subject of his paintings, with stalks appearing in mannered, dancing designs against dark backdrops, with flowers in tender, teasing stages of blossoming.
We quickly ascertain that Mohr’s concern is less for botanical life than variations on visual themes, and the courting of metaphor. The six pieces in the “Stage l–VI” attempt an allegory of the life cycle, from youth to maturity, spring to nocturnal green. “Flaming Dances” are tall, vertical pieces in which the wriggling stalks take on the amorphous forcefulness of flames.
In art about variations on a tautly defined theme, little differences take on disproportionate importance. Two of the best pieces in the show establish their own rules of order within the show’s umbrella concept, even though they’re clearly of a piece. “Stormy Nights” is a horizontally pitched composition in which a line of plant stalks bend as if in a choreography of line, with shy white blossoms spreading their tentative wings. “Glamorous Night” has a pattern in which stalks fold themselves over from both sides of the picture toward the middle, a centering gesture that gives the image strange poise.
Mohr’s nocturnal flower paintings travel with a deceptive lightness. They’re pretty horticultural pictures on one level, but also taken out of the usual context, the better to strive toward a private context of the artist’s own scheming.
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, SCENE MAGAZINE, JUNE 8, 2001
BY JOAN CROWDER
“Topography of White,” the title of Jack N. Mohr’s exhibition at Delphine Gallery sounds minimalist. Despite the fact that all of the artist’s ceramic pieces are white and all are the same size, they are not minimalist at all. Instead, each one is a unique exploration of light and shadow, rhythm, design and the relationship of shapes.
The format is an 11-inch square mounted on a white 22-inch square hollow box frame. Each composition is made of white high-fired stoneware, porcelain or a mix of both, with a high-gloss glaze. Using clay sheets, strips, hand-rolled balls and free-form pieces, Mohr creates studies in light and form. Some of the work has a conceptual edge.
The pieces are arranged in series, each grouping based on a different artistic approach. In a series called “Rhythm,” a sheet of clay is placed over another, then cut into squares or strips. Each square or strip is turned up at the edges to create a play of light, shadow and texture over the shiny surface.
The pattern is different in each piece. Some patterns are vertical, others horizontal. There is an underlying mathematical logic in the design, but also a sense of movement, especially as the viewer sees the piece from different angles and the shadows shift.
The artist also uses strips of clay in a series titled “Eruption,” but the effect is much different. In these pieces, the top layer is broken open to reveal small balls like marbles or peas which appear to be emerging from inside. In some of these pieces, the strips are curled back, creating a play of deep shadows on the surface. In others, the strips appear torn and in one composition, a row of nails adds a different shadow dimension.
In the “Variation” series, Mohr uses the same basic elements — a curved layer, a grouping of balls and vertical strips — varying them in each construction to create a different effect. The artist’s strong design sense underlies all of the work.
“Obstruction” is a more conceptual series. In these, rod-shaped pieces appear to be held onto the surface by a horizontal strip. One or a few nails are arranged on these more geometric pieces. The most free-form group is “Organic” and like its title, each composition in this series appears to have evolved from the material - unlike the more precisely arranged pieces in some of the other work. In “Organic #4,” balls appear to be flowing down a curved surface as though being swept down a stream. “Organic #9” is like a topographical study and even incorporates a small square of color. A serene face emerges in “Organic #11.” In several pieces, balls appear to be pressing their way out of the surface through diagonal slits.
The clay takes on a different quality in the “Reduction” pieces, appearing softly folded to create intrinsic vertical shadings. In several of these pieces, a rod or nail pierces the folded clay like a pin holding cloth. Mohr, a German-born artist who had his own graphics studio in Berlin now lives in Santa Barbara. He is a painter and photographer, as well as a ceramic artist.