Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jasmine Justice

Untitled, 2003, acrylic on Plexiglas, 12" x 30"

JL: For me, these sculptures/constructions bring to mind the discussion of the John McCracken's 'planks' as a radical activation of a new kind of space. At the same time, these seem to mock such naive assumptions. In this context, it makes me wonder if you might have had any art historical precedents in mind when producing these works?

JJ: At the time I made those I went to grad school in New Jersey, at Rutgers, and I was commuting there by train and loved the ride for all of its oil refineries, mysterious factories, burnt out buildings, broken glass and graffiti. Another unexpected influence at Rutgers was its very rich Fluxus heritage. I felt too shy to do performance myself, but it was such a big part of everyday school life. There were often Fluxus parades in the halls and anyone could join them. Between the parades and Geoffrey Hendrix’s class, a performance was always happening. I was also reading a lot of Judd, Smithson and Morris at the time, wondering why there weren’t more Benglises or Hesses, other than Benglis or Hesse to read about.

I started to focus on experiencing simple, dramatic incidents in my paintings, seeing the performative/experiential aspects of putting them together merge with the visual vocabulary of the materials. It seemed inevitable for it to come off the wall, but in a humble way, the flavor of which was sort of like, “I’m sorry that I’m just a crappy art object.” Those pieces had as much to do with the floor and the dirt on the floor as they did the space they were activating or the walls they were engaged with. They were funny and playful.

JL: Instead of a smoothly painted, monochromatic wood plank, you have utilized less precious materials such as Plexiglas, tape, and what appears to be house paint. How important was the use of such materials to you at this stage in your work?

JJ: I was just using what was around the building at the time. I can be a scavenger at times, but I think there is an unfortunate tendency right now, to consider “found” materials in a precious way. I guess once it is seen as a category, it’s all over. I feel suspicious when too much value is placed on designations between “found” and purchased. How many resources go into what we make really varies, and is not even close to being limited to the actual material used.

One thing that I concern myself with is how I can develop an awareness in the slight difference between making it perfect and slightly off. Sometimes this difference can be conveyed with ease and comes out naturally, but other times it’s much harder then just making it perfect. It’s so subjective and the marks often have to be extremely mannered; using found items like Plexiglas (that invoke machine-made qualities) was good for this.

Move Over, 2002, oil on canvas, 42" x 42”

JL: So it sounds like you’ve come across this curiosity to experiment with space naturally, rather than academically. How did you become attracted to utilizing more abstract, painterly space?

JJ: I’ve been using this kind of space since about the 9th grade.

JL: Are there particular concepts of your contemporaries that have been especially influential?

JJ: More and more I realize and fully appreciate how vital dialogue created amongst small groups of people can be. I’m very grateful for my peers- the artists, curators and art historians I’m lucky enough to have in my community, and the discussions that I’m engaging in with them at each moment. Some of my best friends, including my husband happen to be some of my favorite artists. This is invaluable.

Recently, Carrie Moyer was in a panel on the language of contemporary abstract painting (or something like that) at the National Academy Museum. Early in the discussion she argued that the language of abstract painting doesn’t altogether have an agreed upon meaning. I think that threatened some of the folks there, judging by their reactions. I don’t think she was trying or to weaken public opinion of the power of abstraction, but rather to point out how malleable (and exciting) it is, bringing to mind what role class and social structure have played with this language in both its modern and contemporary forms. I especially appreciated when she pointed out how rad it is that so many people can just go out and buy an Ikea object; this object perhaps being the epitome of how the language of contemporary abstract form is enjoyed on a nearly universal level. You can get Ikea on Craigslist for cheap-sometimes it’s free even.

Yellow Peg, 2003, acrylic on Plexiglas, wood and graphite, 34" x 8"

JL: Have you stopped doing three-dimensional work? How might have the paintings and sculptures informed each other?

JJ: I haven’t stopped making them, just now that I’m spending such a significant amount of time trying to make money; I have less time for it. A couple years ago though I took a few weeks off day jobbing and collaborated on several sculpture projects with my husband, Jesse Farber. The collaborations evolved in a very similar fashion as those 3-D pieces, but they ended up being much more raucous, full of many scatterings of ideas-very free form, stream of consciousness type objects.

JL: Overall, your work seems to deny an obvious linear progression... though when looking back at these earlier sculptures/constructions, there is at least a clue that you have maintained some similar concerns. How might you characterize your own development? Do you attempt to avoid a personal style?

JJ: I’m suspicious of “personal style.” We all have it, no matter what we think, but it can be dangerous, evolving into a closed system if we aren’t careful. So I try to to be in a place where the direction things take can often be a surprise.

In spite of my impression that I’m always in new territory with each piece, my work tends to be cyclical. I look at some images of earlier works and realize I keep revisiting most of what I’ve made, a doubling over in a way. I think the “earlier” works were a little more concerned with examining a dialogue between minimalism and post-minimalism.

Untitled, 2002, oil on canvas, 25" x 25”

JL: In many of them, there is a sense of whimsy and playfulness which highlights and expands upon mistake or accident. At the same time, they manage to have an objectness that is uncommon in painting. If looking at the Untitled, 2003 and Move Over, 2002 they seem confidently “finished” and yet awkwardly presented formally. Is this something that you came about with a deliberate choice?

JJ: Definitely. I’m glad that comes through. It’s important that my works have these qualities. I hope the objectness provides a more bodily, almost nudging quality.

JL: Do you mean that you would like these works to provoke in some way?

JJ: My hope is that my works add to a heightened awareness of our own material composition and frailty. You kind of have to rub the wrong way a little to do this. You have to be a nudge.

L.V., 2008, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36" x 36"


  1. wow, i forgot about the plexiglas pieces! cool. looking forward to the interview.

  2. I love the plexiglas pieces -- they seem to be both very literal and very pictorial at the same time. In Yellow Peg in particular, I feel like the work makes such strong movements towards a landscape picture -- the organic white shapes like grass or trees, the yellow feeling so architectural. Yet the materials seem so clunky, and we can even see some white paint on the floor that might've missed the mark, so we're acutely aware of the human hand behind the work.

    That still seems to be something you do, drawing attention to awkwardness of marks or materials in your paintings.

    I'm interested also in how the plexiglas pieces relate to layering -- I think that your newer paintings have gotten more and more sophisticated about making layers of color and marks, like in L.V., how you have more than one layering system within the same painting and more ambiguity between the layers. The older paintings seem to have a simpler flatness vs deep space thing going on. Were you consciously thinking about layers when you did the 3d pieces?

  3. the language of contemporary abstraction!
    wish i'd heard that panel. (mentioned in the paragraph above Yellow Peg.) long time ago now. i wonder if it was recorded