JESS Paintings

TIBOR DE NAGY GALLERY | DECEMBER 8, 2011 – JANUARY 21, 2012

Jess, "Ex. 1-Laying a Standard: Translation #1," 1959, oil on canvas, 23 1/2" × 15". Courtesy of Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

Jess: Paintings, Tibor de Nagy’s third solo exhibition of the artist’s work and the first to focus on his paintings, features 17 paintings and two works on paper. This exhibition reveals much about Jess’s progress with regard to process and influences: one finds in the interim between “Kit Kat, Imaginary Portrait #12” (1955) and “Tactile Images” (1959) a studied investment in Édouard Vuillard’s intimate and tonal palette. One also encounters the artist discovering the heavy impasto qualities of oil paint mixed with wax. Through Jess’s varied surface materials and painterly approaches in “Fairy Tale Street” (1953), “Night Scene: St. Dominic’s” (1954), and “The Felon” (1966), a tentative exploration of the mystical is evident—while works such as “Hyakinthos—Apollon” (1962) and “‘Danger, Don’t Advance,’ Salvages IX” (circa 1990, his last painting) attest to a sensual realm where ecstasy and vulnerability are indistinguishable. Painted with the same heavily laid-on, paint-by-numbers style of Jess’s exquisite “Ex. 4—Trinity Trine” (1964, displayed in MoMA’s third-floor hallway this past fall), “Ex. 1—Laying a Standard, Translation #1” (1959)—created three years before Warhol’s 1962 mechanical “Do It Yourself” paintings—is the only work displayed from the artist’s most enduring and recognizable series of paintings.

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Phong Bui