Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jess Fuller

I used to rent a studio in Greenpoint where I had the opportunity to get to know artist Jess Fuller. I was excited at the opportunity to revisit with her the other week in her very spacious live-in studio in Clinton Hill. Shortly after I arrived and was introduced to her lovely cat Buster, we sat down to have the tacos that she had prepared for us during our visit.  It was a soft fall evening and as we put away our dishes and got out our respective art materials, Jess began to walk me around the place, sharing with me her studios' most recent developments. She explained that she was preparing to ship her work to Denmark for a two person show with Sam Moyer at Galleri Tom Christoffersen that opens December 2 and that she was currently in a group show at SOUTHFIRST in Williamsburg. Her work and materials took up nearly every part of the apartment, hanging from the walls, made into mountainous-like piles in the corners, and organized factory style on the floor awaiting their next step of production. It made the place feel more like an installation than home or studio, perfect for a night of art making with full bellies.

Jess' current work wonderfully embraces and wrestles with one of the most common materials used in painting: the canvas. She delves into this historic fabric, meticulously tearing it apart with a gentle hand, freeing it from its usual two dimensional form and allowing it to arrive, anew, three dimensionally. Many things come to mind when looking at the "marks" she has left; they might create a downward swooping gesture (as though the piece is taking in an exuberant breath), or form a pendulous open-mouthed grin, or mimic torn skin where letters are spelled out from the scarring left behind. While I was there Jess was sitting in front of her couch methodically pulling away thread after thread from the center of a small sheet of canvas. This is just one of the many steps she takes in arriving at her works. Before she begins this part of the process Jess adds pigment to the material, canvases might be fully coated (as in the large black piece that hung ominously in room behind us), or hit with hints of color, as a wink to the minimalist gesture. Jess then puts it through a wash at the local laundromat to further frey the edges and distress the color. 
Photo I took at the group show TEXT/IMAGE at SOUTHFIRST

Lately, Jess has moved away from putting her altered canvases on stretchers which she had done in the past. Instead, she is using glue as a starch to stiffen the space around the canvas where the stretchers would regularly be. This, referencing the the ridged formations of the wood, while allowing the paintings to settle into themselves, giving the work an even more animated, or anthropomorphous feel. As one painting's body slouched down from the wall I couldn't help but touch it, captivated by its life-like girth.

Buster and art
Installation view of Fuller and Moyer's work at Galleri Tom Christoffersen, 2011
This was an evening visit, and before I knew it we were well past the midnight mark and onto the next day. I so enjoyed talking to Jess, looking up at each other from time to time as she expressively told me about all her life, where she grew up, her connection to the ocean and her endless travel experiences. I am totally taken by her work and excited to keep following it. Please go check out the group show TEXT/IMAGE at SOUTHFIRST and check back with Pencil in the Studio soon, I will post some pictures here of the show at Galleri Tom Christoffersen .

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