Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jesse Higman: Illuvium

  Spiral - Jesse Higman

Despite having seen Jesse Higman's show, Illuvium, at Vermillion three times I have been reluctant to write about the work.  Perhaps because some folks have already covered his work and process so well (Evening Magazine, Joey Veltkamp) and the fact that I've been worn out after hanging my own December exhibition. 

But it's also intimidating to write about an artist of Higman's talents who has had to develop an entire new way of creating work after the accident that resulted in a loss of limb function.

-let me stop myself here -

Oh so easy is to fill up a review of Higman's work with stories of overcoming tragedy, fighting obstacles, and the like While Higman pushes his talents to the limits and works hard - this work really isn't about any of that cliched crap.  He was an artist before the accident and continues to be one after.  And he has created some interesting pieces.

The works are strange things - there certainly is a graphic quality that reminds me of some of the rock album cover type imagery he's famous for (see: every Grunge band).  There's a primal organic look about them.  Abstract shapes have the look of nebulas or electron microscope images.  At times it seems like Higman purposefully took pictures towards specific forms, like in Spiral (pictured above) or Pheonix, which looks like the the flaming mouth of a Pheonix, but these have have just been accidents.  It really doesn't seem to matter what you see in the work, it's the composition, colors, and movement that tell the stories.  And the fascinating texture - the metallic flakey paint that Higman uses has a kind of sparkly look to it on some works, and a matte almost chalky look on others. I like the chalky pieces the best, the paint has a look of gouache. 

The show at Vermillion features one of Higman's specially designed tables he works on in his studio with complicated levers and such he can essentially move the painting, angle it any which way he needs to get the water based paint flowing the way he wants.  One can not help but be reminded of another northwest painter, who also had a significant accident that changed how he painted - Chuck Close.  Close cut holes in his studio floor and had a massive crank system so he could easily move his large paintings up and down, as he worked on them. A great artist will find a way.

Illuvium will be on display through January 30th at Vermillion.  Check it out.

No comments: