Devon DeJardin uses art — and art history — to understand the world and his place in it. With a background studying spiritual traditions from around the world, and an appreciation for the emotional, muscular abstraction of Picasso, Nevelson, Duchamp and Krasner, DeJardin’s paintings, drawings, and sculpture reference the body, forces of nature, and the application of philosophy to lived experience. With a sense of geometry that is both architectural and organic, and a refined palette that highlights the life of the mind, DeJardin muses on strength, fragility, control, and surrender. His new show Umgestalter (Shifter of Shapes) opens at DENK Gallery in downtown L.A. on April 17.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
DEVON DEJARDIN: With my newer work it implies a spiritual grapple and acquiescence to the forces beyond us that strengthen us through struggle. The abstraction in the new series reflects in part the accumulation of pain, of the storm-scars that shift our shapes.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I was not an artist I would be working as an architect. I find that physical spaces have a deep impact on human experience. I believe that you can alter human emotion through curated spaces and elevate the mind to newer ways of thinking simply by the atmosphere you are surrounded by. Through architecture, we are able to represent how we see ourselves as how we see and interact with the world. It tells us about ancient cultures and points towards future society.
When was your first show?
My first solo show was in November 2019 with Coates and Scarry; the exhibition Guardians featured a series of drawn and painted portraits. The paintings were subconsciously informed by my early studies of world religions in university. I saw the paintings as spiritual custodians, religious icons belonging to no religion in particular but offering universal hope, stability, comforting companionship and even protection in times of personal and collective turmoil.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My upcoming exhibition Umgestalter will be held April 17 – May 9 at DENK Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibition introduces fifteen new works on canvas, paper, and sculpture. The title of the exhibition references a line in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem The Man Watching, in which the poet alludes to the biblical story of Jacob grappling with the angel. In doing so, Rilke suggests that the struggle with that which outmatches us enables humanity to strive against greater and greater things. Rilke calls the coming storm of this showdown “Umgestalter”, which in German means the “shifter of shapes” or the “transformer.”
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
At the moment I’m fascinated with William Blake and his paintings. William Blake had an incredible pull towards mythological stories and characters of religion. I find myself interested in Blake’s claim to have had visions – seeing angels and spirits amongst nature and the day-to-day. There is an energy so explosively charged in his work that it seems to come from something greater than him.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Music breathes so much energy into my work. I love listening to UK jazz (Alfa Mist, Ill Considered, etc.) as well as a solid spread of hip hop and electronic music (Jay Z, ASAP Rocky, ASAP Ferg, Polo & Pan). At the moment however I am really interested in Oliver Malcolm’s music. There’s something about his energy and visuals that I resonate with.
Website and social media handles, please!
DENK Gallery is located at 749 E. Temple St, downtown. DeJardin’s exhibition is on view April 17-May 9, by appointment; Artist reception: April 22, 7pm; free with rsvp to [email protected].