Art Review: Max Jansons “Ocean Park” at 2520 18th Street


Max Jansons makes gentle little paintings that are easy to overlook. And that’s fine by him. The last thing his softly painted pictures want is to force you to do anything. If paintings had DNA, Jansons’ would share none of the hard-sell pushiness that Americans often mistake for strength.

At Ocean Park Studio Jansons’ 14 page-size oils on linen possess a different kind of strength. It’s dopier and dorkier, but brave in its own way. Think Giorgio Morandi meets Florine Stettheimer. Inward intensity gives Jansons’ paintings a kind of innocent intimacy rarely seen in contemporary art.

It begins with a powerful disregard for trends. The subjects of Jansons’ paintings couldn’t be cornier: pictures of his wife, himself, childhood idols, doodles and flower-filled vases.

The way Jansons paints is also out of step with the way current painting tends toward extreme messiness or locked-down control. In contrast, Jansons proceeds patiently, paying attention to every stroke of the brush, to how much paint its bristles hold, to the viscosity of those little dollops and to the way raw linen drinks them up.


Sometimes Jansons works a smudge of paint into the weave until it gets atmospheric, like a whiff of perfume. At others he uses tiny brushes to noodle paint on thickly, like custom-made capellini. At still others he treats his paintbrushes as if they were pencils, drawing lines that glow and quiver, their luminosity warm and giving.

In every instance, Jansons lays down paint in a way that recalls both blue-collar pragmatism and Zen attentiveness. The no-nonsense utilitarianism of the former gives some grit to the laissez-faire openness of the latter. It’s a potent mix of humility and amazement.

2520 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 871-0090, through May 25. Closed Sunday-Tuesday.