Thursday, March 19, 2015


In the years I have spent visiting Conduit Gallery, I can’t recall a show that nearly took the whole gallery space. But Robert Jessup’s paintings were so large and held so much presence that it was no wonder his works were featured in both the front and back galleries. Only the project room and a wall next to the back office showed work by the Chris Larson.

Robert Jessup was my first professor at UNT during my graduate years. I remember being apprehensive at first taking him as a painting professor, because of his style and approach to narrative painting. I had dropped storytelling as a mode of production, but he easily adapted his advice to me. Of course, I was unaware of his first adventures to the edge of abstraction in his painting career. Now, Jessup has returned to that edge with a vengeance, and also with the confidence that his new work still gives a sense of story without definitive definable characters or objects.

When Jessup invited me to his studio a while back, I saw massive paintings, and after he moved one out to show me, he then restored it in a vertical position. In my mind, I kept associating the works as vertical paintings, even though he showed many in a horizontal position. I don’t know why this stuck with me, but seeing them in Conduit Gallery as horizontal pieces, I was reminded that Jessup had orientated many of the works in landscape fashion. This simple change of the canvas completely shifts the meaning of the work. A vertical presentation implied bodies intertwined, but horizontal implies a larger story, which has less to do with a few individuals and more to do with an aerial view of a cityscape, or some other wider lens. Many of the works had a kind of keystone or starting off point of color that seemed to pop out. I found these odd little shapes of color eye catching, but not distracting enough to keep me from wanting to visit the rest of the painting. Curved lines of paint continue to capture your attention as you move your eyes around and around, following the lines. Much of work was also muted in color. It seems white dominated the show, masking color and calming the brightness I usually associate with Jessup’s work. This further accentuates the brushstrokes.

Chris Larson in the project room, might have been overshadowed by Jessup’s show if the video had not been so much fun to watch. Video art can be a time consuming chore, but Larson’s film keeps you guessing. A little disorienting, Larson destroys his workspace in unique fashion. It is too bad this is the last weekend for both shows. Another last weekend show you should drop by and see is at Cliff Gallery at Mountain View College. Paula Whelan and, another former professor of mine, Susan Cheal will be closing their show of “Useless” objects. As off kilter as the Larson video, these two play with throwaway material, then convert objects into strangely attractive/weird art pieces.

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