Jason Milburn at William Busta Gallery

Jason Milburn, who has maintained a studio in NE Ohio since graduating from the Cleveland Art Institute 10 years ago, is showing a passel of large drawings at the William Busta Gallery. The cartoon-inspired ink drawings are populated by vaguely familiar figures in suburban scenarios that are awash with anxiety and menace–‘High School Art Teacher in Hell,’ so to speak.

The drawings are filled with humor of an ironic type that veers from the mildly political to the personal and opaque. The political humor is predictably sophomoric and, therefore, forgettable, The less overtly political drawings (luckily, the majority of the pieces) are often arresting.

 The Good

Milburn displays a lively sense of design. Each element is selected for some purpose, although what it is is often obscure. Perspectives tilt, clash, and wander away, yet most pieces, such as this one, hold together. Each drawing inhabits the same psychological space that could be characterized as a comic book, suburban de Chirico, where things are selected and placed according to some meaning or symbolism instead of other formal reasons.

'Who Needs Coupons?' by Jason Milburn

‘Who Needs Coupons?’ by Jason Milburn

The Bad

I wish Milburn drew better. He shows none of the caricaturing skills of great cartoonists and draughtsmen. He frequently launches into what might be called ‘high comic book’ style in many areas, especially in the faces, then lapses into a more simplistic approach elsewhere. This clash of treatments does not hold together, and warps the the stage in a way I doubt the artist intends.

The Ugly

All the pieces in the show are described as ‘ink and found objects.’ Each drawing has some object affixed to it, such as the coins in the drawing (actually slugs). The intent is humor which is–surprisingly–understated and restrained.  However, the puns become distracting and none of the drawings were made stronger by the additions.

'Here's a Dollar, Buy Another Coffee,' by Jason Milburn

‘Here’s a Dollar, Buy Another Coffee,’ by Jason Milburn

Conclusion

I very much like the playful, anxious space invoked by Milburn’s drawings. Unfortunately, the drawings are marred by conflicting stylistic devices which decrease their power. Milburn strikes me as an artist still growing into a personal style.

Finally, the Statement accompanying this show is refreshingly straightforward and matter-of-fact, and not burdened by the cringe-inducing Statements that plague other shows at this gallery.

[The photos are mine but the works are copyright Jason Milburn.]

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