Monday, June 02, 2014


Robert Jessup - "January Number Two", 2014, 20 inches by 24 inches, oil repost of my article.

About a month or so ago, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Faith Scott Jessup’s and Robert Jessup’s studio. I was invited to see Robert’s new work, but I found it a real bonus to also visit Faith’s space as well. I had seen hints of Robert’s new direction at a recent show at Conduit gallery of Dallas, at the UNT Gallery in downtown Dallas, and after my studio visit, I ran into more work down in Houston at the McMurtrey Gallery. McMurtrey’s space could only contain his small works, so I am hoping to see Robert’s new large paintings at another venue soon.

When I say large paintings, I am talking about paintings that are at Robert’s limits to move by himself. But these are not just arbitrarily large, the size helps to expand the story his paintings are conveying. At first glance, you might want to call them abstract, but Jessup is more akin to works by Willem de Kooning in that he is more interested in human form. And like de Kooning, Jessup tackles the idea of a portrait in a few of these works. He differs from de Kooning greatly because Jessup is also very interested in a strong sense of narrative. These large works have the character and feeling of a story. Even Jessup’s portraits seem to be less about the surface of the figure and more about an idea or character sketch which easily leads into a story.

His painting, “Field Figure, Red White,” is reminiscent of a head shot photograph, but with an odd twist of energized lines. The colors and implied narrative action of Jessup’s painting remind me of Philip Guston’s later representational paintings. Like his more realistic works from the past, Jessup is pursuing storytelling through painting. The only difference is that now the work is stretching the limits of narrative painting into a more subjective, mysterious realm.

Jessup’s paintings use thick lines to pull and push your eyes around the canvas balanced by fleshy, earthy tones; I can’t can’t help but think that these works are very sexual. Lines become legs and arms twisted together with an embrace. I was first struck by the movement of these works and on reflection, I now see them as powerful bodies in the act of making love. "New Years Day" looks as if the blue line is penetrated by the pink line, filled with blue fluid. The more I look at the work, the more phallic symbols appear. Of course, sex isn’t the only override imagery, to give these works a possible twist, landscapes seen from the sky point of view also come to mind, but that creeps close to traditional abstract art. However, unlike the formalist approach you still read a kind of story in these paintings. These works are about journey and exploration.

View Robert Jessup at Conduit Gallery and Faith Jessup at Norwood Flynn Gallery The McKinney Avenue Contemporary New Works Space, Robert Jessup's May 10 - June 28 An art talk with Robert Jessup, Wednesday, June 11 // 6:30 pm. for more images

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