Art Abstracts: Jasper’s Cheap Date by James Michaels

Art Abstracts

With more than 17,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection, there are many amazing works that visitors rarely get to see. Take a peek into the vaults and off the walls each Monday with a new Art Abstract!


Jasper’s Cheap Date

Jaspers Cheap Date

IMAGE CREDIT | James Michaels, U.S., b. 1945 | Jasper’s Cheap Date, 1986 | Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from Jerome M. Westheimer Sr. and the National Endowment for the Arts, 1988

Celebrate National Girlfriend Day by showing yours that a cheap date can be a great date: visit the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, where admission is always free! You’ll have to wait until tomorrow though, because we’re closed on Mondays.

The work Jasper’s Cheap Date demonstrates the artist’s affinity for the pictorial language of advertising. Cartoon characters, an image of lasagna, and the bold fonts of pricing information combine in the painting to create a dizzying array of imagery that suggests the visual onslaught of promotion. The style of the painting owes a debt to James Rosenquist but the title likely references the artist Jasper Johns, who borrowed imagery freely from popular culture and is sometimes credited as the father of Pop Art.

Born in Brooklyn, James Michaels moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1971. In 1980, Michaels gave up a successful commercial art career to pursue a career in the fine arts. His early paintings were classically realistic subjects, such as indigenous figures and wildlife. But Michaels didn’t feel challenged by them and felt that it came too easy. Technically skilled, but needing to get in touch with his feelings, Michaels gave up the paintbrush and used his fingers to paint directly on the canvas. This exercise was a revelation and he no longer felt constrained to any preconceived notions of what painting should be.

In 1981, armed with paintings he really wanted to paint, in a style which began to show his emotions and insight as well as technical mastery, he started to win awards for his work. This culminated in 1986 with a national level fellowship, the AVA (Awards in the Visual Arts), which included a large cash prize and traveling exhibitions in New York, Cincinnati, and California. In 1987, back problems seriously curtailed his painting production. After recovering, Michaels’ work evolved into a more contemplative self-examining expressionistic approach. That style of painting led to a Gasparilla Best of Show award in 1990 and a one person show at the Tampa Museum of Art in 1992. In 1994, Michaels won a State of Florida Fellowship in painting.

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