Pancho Jimenez, Impressions & Revelations, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, June 4-July 2, 2022 (published by, 6/11/22)

Pancho Jiménez, "Impressions & Revelations"
by DeWitt Cheng
Pancho Jiménez, “Progression #1-5," ceramic, 8" diameter;10" diameter; 10" diameter; (l. to 4.) 12 x 10 x 10"; 10 x 14 x 11"
Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, California
Continuing through July 2, 2022
With a seemingly endless supply of reports of catastrophes assailing us — freak weather, gun massacres, corporate corruption, and fascist putsches — nervous doomscrolling has become a fact of current American life — at least for those with a strong enough gut not to tune out in defeat. Remember when post-apocalyptic fantasies were innocent fun? I remember seeing the “Warheads” ceramic sculptures of Robert Arneson during the militaristic Reagan 1980s and admiring their combination of politics and aesthetics, Jonathan Swift’s saeva indignatio (fierce indignation) expressed with over-the-top, take-no-prisoners comic ferocity. Tell us what you really think, Bob.
Pancho Jiménez, “Fulfilled,” 2019, ceramic, 23 x 10 x 9”
The ceramic sculptures of Pancho Jiménez in “Impressions & Revelations” continue the Bay Area tradition of ceramic satire, but in a subtler vein, minus Arneson’s larger-than-life polemical brio, but no less meaningfully or effectively. The neutral presentation of Jiménez’s pseudo-artifacts — featuring cute mass-market imagery jumbled together as if caught by fire, flood, earthquake, or lava flow, and covered with a glaze that suggests amber-trapped insects — lets us do the interpretive work rather than accede passively to the artist’s dictates. Post-apocalypse now, if you want it.
The ten free-standing pieces placed on pedestals and the nine wall-mounted reliefs in the show could easily be taken by a cursory viewer as brilliantly colored archaeological artifacts. Jiménez uses massive, compressed forms to contain his cultural plasmas, made from commercial molds used for what used to be deemed kitsch — figurines and tchotchkes — at least before A-list artists embraced low-class motifs for high-class patrons. Easy irony is not the point of Jiménez’s cultural critique, however. He conflates the past in the form of tripods, plaques and other ceremonial artifacts; the present with his mass-market decorations; and a hypothetical future in which these transtemporal works (or ruins of works) can be surveyed by a perhaps wiser, gentler race of survivors.
The artist depicts America’s current mass culture of easy fun, historical amnesia, and incessant distraction in the wider context of history: sub specie aeternitatis, under the guise of eternity, in the “eternal present” of art, especially the ancient pre-Columbian art that has long fascinated the artist.
The idea of geometric wholes, broken or eroded to reveal their innards, was employed by the Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. Jiménez revives it — with a pop-culture dimension — to good and timely effect. “Cenotes” is a three-legged glazed ocher sculpture that suggests the bronze tripods of ancient cultures, as well as a giant’s molar, yellowed by time. Where the tooth’s nerves should be, encased in dentine, are deep cavities in which we discern composite mechanical parts thrown together, like rubble encased in Roman concrete. Cenotes are sinkholes in limestone that have been flooded with fresh water that are found in the Yucatán peninsula. A circle of them surrounds the Chicxulub meteor crater. 
Pancho Jiménez, “Nucleus," 2017, ceramic, 26" diameter
Pancho Jiménez, “Gaze," 2022, ceramic, 13 x 13 x 3 1/2"
“Gaze” is a purplish-gray glazed circular wall plaque in low relief, covered by faces cast from molds, their eyes closed, with the boundary between the faces suggestive of a stylized closed eye. The totality resembles the ommatidia-faceted eyes of flies and dragonflies. “Nucleus” is a large reddish-orange sphere covered by impacted tchotchkes that suggests a world overtaken by trash and trivia, while its formal obverse, the five smaller “Progression” sculptures, suggest a sequence of explosions from within as a delicately textured spherical cell sacrifices itself in order to replicate. Jiménez's five bleached-white plaques of internet company logos — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat — posit an archaeology of the ephemeral, and would make for wonderful tiles in some future corporate temple done à la Frank Lloyd Wright.