Jennifer Moses’ Elbow Room: An Interview in Images with Linda Leslie Brown
Jennifer Moses’ quizzical, layered paintings are packed with physical and conceptual content. They also manage to pay homage, in ways both straightforward and sly, to a panoply of artists -some of whose work you may recognize below. Elbow Room, her show on view this month at Kingston, is a visual feast you won’t want to miss.
I met Jennifer for coffee recently to talk about her work, in an extension of an ongoing discussion we’ve carried on over the years. So, we sat around over at Nero the other morning talking about our art heroes and influences, of whom we have several in common.
Here’s one of Jennifer Moses’ works:
Jennifer Moses Bird on Wire 33×30 oil on panel
And one of my wall pieces
Linda Leslie Brown Nutthouse 2016 mixed media
We decided to conduct our discourse in images…
“First, she said, there’s…
…And don’t forget
Do you know this one?
We have to mention of course.”
And it seems both of us have a permanent Resident in our studios:
Well, that started a flow of images…
…as well as images of flow…
until I came out with
which started us both laughing. We could go on and on with this!
So I’ll leave it to you, Readers, to search out further references like these in Jennifer Moses’ paintings and collages at Kingston Gallery this November.
This month at Kingston is all about the value of artists influencing and supporting each other. Our current exhibition, I Know Just What You’re Saying, is an all-members effort and a game of “telephone” made visual. While its concept opened selections up to chance and some improvisation, the final result is elegant and thought-provoking. It’s up until Sunday, January 31.
In a lovely case of kismet, a former Kingston artist member, Richard DeVeau, wrote an article on Medium about the fellowship of artists, including his time at Kingston Gallery. The piece primarily focuses on artwork and friendship linking artists Amedeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine in the first half of the 20th century.
DeVeau writes, “Given the number of portraits they painted of each other, especially the number of times Modigliani painted Soutine, it’s clear they were best friends. Their studio/living spaces were in the same building. And they had a lot of time to talk with an easel between them.”
One of the best things about Kingston Gallery, that’s not always apparent to even a frequent visitor to the exhibitions, is the lively chaos in the form of witty banter and passionate dialogue between members at the monthly meetings. Kingston IS its artists. As DeVeau mentions in his article, it is one of the oldest artist-run galleries in the nation.
It’s no secret that creativity increases when we share ideas, whether directly related to a body of work, generally about art-making, or about life in general. Earlier this week, a friend and former student, Jessica Yvonne Lewis, posted on Facebook:
Do you have to make art consistently to be an artist? Can you be a creative person without a visual element involved? Do you need people to see it for it to mean something? What about conversation? What about how you see and interact with the world?
As is often the case with contemporary art, the questions are more interesting than the answers. Lewis is based in Portland, Oregon. Find her on Instagram @furrawnyvonne.
L-R: Sarah Meyers Brent, Stacey Alickman.
L-R: Lynda Schlosberg, Rose Olson, Lavaughan Jenkins, Christina Pitsch
L-R: Linda Leslie Brown, Mary Lang
Finally, in case you missed it, an all-too-relatable cartoon, What Do You Do? by Jack Sjogren on Hyperallergic.
The January show, the brainchild of Shana Garr, presents an unusual opportunity for making connections between members of Kingston Gallery. Although the members are very familiar with each other’s work, this show is the first of its kind where members respond directly to one specific piece of their peers.
The “game” process consisted of a chain of members: one person responded to a piece by sending it to the next person, to the next, and so on. This process yielded interesting interpretations and connections between artists and functioned much like the game of telephone. Color connections, form emulations, idea continuities, and intuitive responses fill the gallery with work, the last piece having a very different direction than the first. All in all, it’s been a great way for gallery members and visitors to the gallery to gain a deeper and singular understanding of individuals and a manifestation of the gallery cooperative.
Associate Member Susan Emmerson divides her time between Boston and Chicago. Her first solo exhibition at Kingston Gallery, “Around a Thousand Tiny Corners,” just ended in May, but she’ll be show work from another series in a exhibit at Kingston in August. I recently caught up with her to talk about her work.
SDG: My mom and brother are surgeons, and so I am especially fascinated by how your experience as a surgeon inspires your work. You speak of your art as a type of translation. How does your piece Flesh and Bone translate into biological terms?
SE: I began Flesh and Bone when I noticed the strong resemblance of melted white Tyvek to the inner structure of bone, and began to try to reproduce the appearance of other body tissues.
SDG: How about all of the colors-are they direct or more metaphorical?
SE: I used organic colors found inside the living human body: subdued reds, yellows and browns. The drawings are based on various cells and parts of cells, and I included partially hidden features to give the illusion of looking inside the body.
SDG: That explains the complex textures that I find so appealing. How about this other piece that appears dramatic on Kingston’s grey walls, Visible Absence?
SE: In Visible Absence, I use forms based on the structure of the lymphatic system, with tiny vessels interconnecting seemingly random clusters of lymph nodes. I called it Visible Absence to emphasize that these structures are almost imperceptible in our own bodies and function more or less without our knowledge unless something goes wrong. The shadows that form behind the piece serve to emphasize this illusory quality.
SDG: What a gorgeous way to bring to light information that we typically can’t even sense, let alone see. Would you say your art is a metaphor for the body at work?
SE: The abstract shapes share many qualities with live organisms: flowing, expanding, growing, repeating and proliferating.
You can learn more about Emmerson’s work at her website, susanemmerson.com, and see more of her work this August at Free Association2015: Kingston Associates’ Annual Exhibition, from August 5 to 30, 2015.
(From the brochure for Jennifer Moses: The Black and White of Things, at Kingston Gallery February 5 – March 2, 2014)
In 2010 Jennifer Moses was given the opportunity to leave her Boston studio behind for a sabbatical year at the Artist-in-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico. The residency culminated in a solo exhibition, Spellbound, at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. The work in that exhibition revealed the awestruck response of a native New Englander to the western landscape on both a macro and micro level. Glimpsed within these abstract paintings were echoes of the enormity of the desert and sky, the monumentality of exposed rock faces, the delicately patterned complexity of spider webs, the colors of the surrounding scrub. Since returning to Boston, she has worked to reconcile her transformative experience of the West with her lifelong experience of the urban spaces of the Northeast.
Moses uses the synthesis of opposing visual languages as a means of telling non-linear stories, explaining, “My process tends to be to paint until there seems to be no way forward and then try to introduce an impulsive and contradictory language in the work. From there it is like working a puzzle trying to integrate the two languages while maintaining the integrity of both. That is where the choices, this or that, black or white incite the creation of an image.”
As she has matured as an artist, her process and paintings have become increasingly complex, rich and varied, for rather than abandoning a visual language as she moves forward, she incorporates it into her ever-expanding repertoire. Earlier influences which continue to inform her vocabulary include details of Proto-Renaissance paintings as well as decaying Italian frescoes first seen during undergraduate studies in Rome; the work of Modernist painters such as Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston; and Hilma af Klint, whose work Moses saw in the 2013 Venice Biennale but has been looking at since the 1980s. More recent influences include the 2007 MoMA exhibition Comic Abstraction: Image Making, Image Breaking and Amy Sillman: One Lump or Two at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.
Like centuries of painters before her, Moses leverages the characteristics of oil paint in a time-honored process of scraping, blocking and repainting, although she foregrounds rather than hides the journey by allowing it to remain visible. Yet at a time when the deliberate open-endedness of provisional painting is a much-discussed response to our era of ever-increasing uncertainty and possibilities, Moses takes an opposing path: she demands a resolution for each painting. She challenges herself to avoid remaining in an unresolved, gray area — making and ultimately committing to decisions, to the black or white yes or no of the process. The inherent tension of her finished paintings, comprised as they are of an accretion of reconsidered marks, is compellingly destabilizing: in this work the certainty of resolution does not mean that the dynamic tension has been relieved.
When Moses visits museums she is sensitive to the dialogue between the works of art she is viewing. While grounded in her here and now, her new paintings reach back and forth through time and across continents, in animated conversation with places, artworks, and audience. The Black and White of Things offers evidence that she is a painter very much in tune with the world of today, thoughtfully absorbing and negotiating visual, narrative and conceptual complexity to arrive at resonantly contemporary solutions.
In Boston, the new year begins not in January but in September. This is especially true in the art world, where September shows are eagerly awaited and fresh work arrives in the galleries to inspire, perplex, challenge or bore us unspeakably for another season.
Kingston Gallery is part of this ritual of renewal with its annual members’ show, Gifted. Visitors to the gallery this September have noted the inclusion of work by a group of artists who are new to the Kingston stable: Stacey Alickman, Kathleen Gerdon Archer, Mira Cantor, Julie Graham, and Lynda Schlosberg. I found that in the Gifted show, the work of these new artists has added an enhanced richness of color and texture to our visual mix.
The work of these artists is diverse and vividly realized, exhibiting a wide variety of conceptual perspectives and technical practices. What unites them is their commitment to the ongoing development of their creative vision. Their work will have a significant impact on the intellectual environment of the gallery, and we’ve selected them specifically to participate in ongoing dialogue with us.
I’ve asked each of them to respond to a few questions in pursuit of this theme as a way of introducing them and placing their work in context.Their responses are intriguing, and we’re looking forward to seeing their ideas take shape in the upcoming shows of their work we’ll be presenting at Kingston.
Linda Leslie Brown (LLB): What is your take on being a new member of Kingston Gallery? How do you think your work fits into the mix?
Mira Cantor: I am delighted to be in Kingston Gallery as a NEW member. I believe it is a good fit as I am sitting here in the gallery looking at all the members’ work.The show was curated well and I think we are all fortunate to have Deborah Davidson with us handling the PR. It’s been a long time since Genovese Sullivan closed and I feel connected again to the street. Thanks for inviting me. Some of the members are old acquaintances and friends; others I hope to get to know. It’s exciting to be part of the group and look forward to seeing all the interesting work.
Julie Graham: I’m honored to be a new member of Kingston Gallery. I’ll show in the members’ gallery in March 2014 where I’ll install a new project that combines multiple elements of my interdisciplinary practice. I’m not yet sure what form it will take, but I will explore some ideas that have been percolating for some time. I’m happy for the opportunity.
Kathleen Gerdon Archer: For me Kingston Gallery has always been at the top of the list of galleries which show exciting, inspiring and thoughtful work. This gallery is less motivated by commercial success than it is by freedom and experimentation. I feel my work will be pushed in new directions as a result of frequent interactions and conversations with the other artist members.
LLB: What’s happening in your studio these days? Are you beginning a new direction or expanding on some ideas that have been in development for some time? What are you most excited about in your work today?
Stacey Alickman: I’m most excited to be exploring more nuanced kinds of texture. Not just impasto and ridges but also something that is the perception of texture rather than just texture itself. I am finding new inspiration in current work by sanding down the paint in order to build up lines again while allowing for previous layers to come through.
I’m also still developing paintings for the purpose of “breaking” in order to get the paint off its canvas. Once the paint is free of its ground, I can use these chips, front and back, for future compositions. I am thinking about using these chips for a large wall installation at Kingston in 2014.
Lynda Schlosberg: I am currently expanding on ideas that have been in development for quite some time. My focus in the studio now is on finding ways to expand on my mark making and new ways of combining and layering the marks to achieve a certain level of visual density and complexity that is characteristic of my work.
While visiting the Danforth Museum’s “Off the Wall” exhibit this summer, I saw several artists with grid and network references in their work. I was already being drawn towards the idea of the grid and began wondering how I might go about introducing something similar into my work. Historically my marks have consisted of interwoven layers of repeating patterns of dots and dashes signifying a sea of vibrating particles of energy, yet I have been becoming more curious with the underlying system that connects all of this vibrating energy together which has led me to the notion of the grid. The grid I envision however is not a rigid system; it is fluid and pervasive, it is an optimum state between chaos and order.
My investigation with the grid is still in its infancy. I have started by working with cheesecloth, soaking it in paint and imprinting it onto the surface. The cheesecloth begins with a uniform structure, but quickly changes form as soon as I apply paint to it and reshape it before pressing it onto the panel. I am going back in and painting over the intricate mesh with different layers of color, breaking up the grid while maintaining part of its original structure. I have yet to finish the first piece using this new technique, so the jury is still out if it will be successful or not, but I’m excited to be working with these new marks.
Mira Cantor: My new work will be shown in the December slot.The landscapes are in a state of demise due to the variation in the viscosity of paint, which metaphorically references global warming.The show will be called MELTWATER.
The new work is derived from two recent experiences. I was an artist in residency in May in Banff, Canada and I spent the month of July teaching at the Burren College of Art on the west coast of Ireland. Both were total immersion of me in the landscape looking at nature very close up and with great vistas. I had also been in Banff in 2010. Immersion into the landscape seems to inspire and motivate my desire to paint. I started using oil paint again in 2010 which I stopped using in graduate school. Oil felt like I was more in touch with natural elements instead of the plastic quality of acrylic. It also enables me to do things with oil, turp and varnish that I cannot accomplish with acrylic. I do wear a mask when I paint which I do not need with acrylic. I think my work has become more quirky and fluid since my last series. I don’t know if that has to do with the material change or age.
Kathleen Gerdon Archer: I am at the beginning of a new body of work that takes a different form but is consistent with themes I often explore. As before, I will use a series to tell a story with literary references. The work has been haunting me for three years and has finally developed into a whole. I can’t wait to show it.
LLB: How do you go about developing new work? Do you have a process of experimentation, inspiration, and change? How do you know when the work needs to take off in a new direction?
Stacey Alickman: In the past couple of years, I’ve been layering oil paint over extended periods of time, often putting it on then taking it off. At some point, the physical aspects of the paint assert itself and I am no longer controlling the outcome. The paint wills itself into a composition that is not of my ideas but something hopefully more transcendent. Lately, I’m more open to the possibility of not knowing what the work is about. A painting I can live with is one that results in an end that couldn’t have gone any other way.
Julie Graham: I’m interested in unexpected and unplanned collisions of ideas, forms, color and architecture — things and places that are normally overlooked, and things that don’t really seem to belong. I consider myself a painter, but I also make 3D pieces (I’m not sure if they are sculpted paintings or painted sculptures) and photographs.The processes of construction are similar throughout, as I build layer upon layer to mirror the way I see the world around me.
Lynda Schlosberg: The desire to expand on my mark making vocabulary and layering is twofold. One is of a semi-practical nature; since my work is very time consuming to produce I’m always looking for new ways to achieve the same visual intricacy with less. The second is on expanding the personal dialogue I am having with quantum theories, and the introduction of new marks and techniques is fueled heavily by what I read on the subject.
Right now I’m in the middle of reading “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart, which has introduced me to the ‘Zero Point Field.’ To oversimplify: there are lingering fluctuations in the Universe’s sub atomic energy field even at temperatures of absolute zero—which is where everything should be completely void of any motion. This ceaseless energy implies that nothing ever really dies completely, that all things that ever existed still exist, and that they are intricately and forever connected through The Field. It is this ‘connection-of-all-things’ that intrigues me, and the idea of an energetic grid that is the mechanism holding it all together.
Kathleen Gerdon Archer: By constantly taking photographs I eventually understand what it is I am interested in seeing. A pattern of like images develop, and once recognized, can be expanded upon. The images reflect what I have been feeling even if I am not aware of that as I am shooting. The years it takes can be frustrating but the stories eventually develop and become clearer to me as I write my statement, a critical component of the work.
Two gallery artists share their experience at the recently-ended exhibition Barry McGee at the ICA in Boston:
Stacey Alickman writes: “Barry McGee is a master draughtsman from the world of graffiti art. The vast quantities of doleful faces and engaging typography become a pleasant assault on the retinas. His impulse to fill space, all space, feels urgent yet organized. The work relates to so many artists whose work I appreciate — from Mad Magazine’s Sergio to the many artists of underground comics, to the paintings of Jim Nutt, to the outsider art of Jean Dubuffet and Adolf Wolfli.
McGee elevates his work through beautifully composed arrangements that feel both spiritual and transcendent. There are cluster installations that are made of framed, fairly small drawings. One is required to come close to the work and experience each micro-element. The drawings of people and creatures are funny and sentimental, random and appealing. But it is also necessary to step back and examine the cluster as a whole. This is like being at a party filled with people, only to step away in order to observe the crowd.
The piece that I was most taken by was the one I thought about days after seeing the exhibit. It was a shed that contained the artist’s own images and those of his late wife, Margaret Kilgallen. Peering into this shed, an ersatz home, is an intimate and bittersweet experience. Their domestic life had been intertwined with the making of art and the shed secures this legacy.”