Jeff Sedrel. "Horse," 63 x 75 in, ink and acrylic on canvas
Jeff Sedrel. “Horse,” 63 x 75 in, ink and acrylic on canvas

From the beginning of existence, humankind has tried to make its mark in the world. In the ever-expanding art world, cave artists, stone carvers, painters from every age, have continued to explore their creativity and search for the mark they will leave. In his exhibit, Jeff Sedrel: New Paintings, the artist shares his explorations in a mixed media presentation that reveal an evolution of his use of markings and brush painting, products of a year’s work.

Three types of painting are shown in New Paintings, currently on display at the Garend of the Zodiac Gallery until Jan. 14, 2020. Sedrel’s earliest works consist of ten untitled India ink drawings on paper that he references as “Reflection, Meditation, and Rumination.”  These works incorporate symmetry of line and balance with iconic symbols such as the all-knowing eye, the universal man, the keyhole of discovery and outreached hands hoping for a grasp of the other.

Jeff Sedrel. “Untitled” pen and ink drawing.

Sedrel says that he seeks simplicity of process in his work. One brush, one pen nib, one color, all gets simplified in a drawing process that achieves repetition as well as meditational pause to follow the flow of the painting. Clearly, these drawings emote a universal “Om” that emanates from the comfort of their balance.

While studying for his BA in Studio Art at UNO, Sedrel started with fundamental materials, India ink and paper, economical tools for an emerging artist. Even after graduation in 2012, he relied on black India ink and white paper to provide the basics for his explorations. One day, by mistake, he brought home vermillion rather than black ink, and his works with color were born.

Jeff Sedrel, “2 Zebras,” 42 x 70 in, ink, paint, marker, gouache, newsprint and enamel on panel

Of the six larger works, both “1 Tiger” and “2 Zebra” show his expanded use of new materials, newsprint that he has cut and glued to MDF, a smooth fiberboard, as well as an enhanced color palette of orange, white, black and tan. Sedrel appreciates both the economy and freedom for experimentation that these materials afford.

“2 Zebra” fascinates with an energy of marks and color.  Warm and vibrant, flush with lines, circles  and patterns, stippled and hatched, two zebras stand paired and poised against a jumbled background.  A stark contrast to his “Meditations,” this mixed media painting suggests African textile patterns.  A series of binary digits, prominent in the painting, together with the vertical zebra stripes may plant a subconscious reference to coding in a modern world.

“1Tiger”, more subtle and more chaotic than “2 Zebra” maintains the same color scheme, the dotting and stippling, but adds more swirling movement and figure-ground contrasts.  Take a step back from the painting, and a resting tiger emerges from the background, a camouflaged subject that suggests its precarious existence.

“Horse”, featured in the front gallery window, slows in mood and tempo, depicting a classic cave-drawn horse, white, against a dark background.  Sedrel layers this canvas with lime green at its base, builds up a dark sky with paint and ink washes, then punctuates the night with pink, moon-like orbs.  With splashes of yellow, orange, and blue for contrast, this work’s complexity is accentuated with black ink drips across the surface that seem to move it out of its frame.

“Buick”, a large canvas in psychedelic orange and pink that features a 1980’s sedan, offers a nod to pop art.  With the brand‘s emblem and product name in plain sight, not much is left to the imagination.  Similarly, “Smile,” because of its distorted circles and contrasting lines, seems to vibrate on the canvas, but, unhappily, it is still just a happy face.

Jeff Sedrel. “Balance 4”

Three of the works, “Balance 3”, “Payments 12”, and “Balance 4” suggest that things may indeed be out of balance.  “Balance 3 & 4”, with backgrounds of thick, cracking hot pink and orangish-yellow painted backdrops feature large inked circles with multiple rings centered on each canvas.

In the lower left corner is the word Balance with the numbers 3 or 4 printed down the vertical edge.  The circles appear concentric, their backgrounds calmer in tone than the centered work, “Payments 12”.  Its center focus is a distorted yin-yang symbol with weakened boundaries that may soon lose their shape and substance.

Jeff Sedrel. “Payments 12”

Among his influences, Sedrel recognizes post-modern abstract expressionists, primarily Jean Dubuffet and Wassily Kandinsky and Japanese artist, Yayoi Kasuma. One can see suggestions of Dubuffet’s simple line drawings including altered human images, representative of child-like drawings, in Sedrel’s work.  While Sedrel’s pinks, oranges, and purples are not as vibrant as Kandinsky or Kasuma’s yellow polka-dotted pumpkin and room, he honors the spirit with his latest work.

Sedrel, born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha, lives and works in the Old Market area.  He was a 2017 Fellow of the Union for Contemporary Art in collaboration with Noah Sterba called Slowed Soul.  He has exhibited at the Petshop Gallery, and the Michael Phipps Gallery.

Jeff Sedrel:  New Paintings runs through January 14, 2020, in the Garden of the Zodiac Gallery, 1042 Howard St.  The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.  For further information, contact 402-341-1877.

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