The Promised Land

American Art Collector - - Contents - JEREMY MANN

When Jeremy Mann wrapped work on his first fea­ture-length film ear­lier this year, he im­me­di­ately rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of his break­through in the medium. “…I will con­tinue to film for­ever,” he says. “It’s a lan­guage which fills my soul with po­etry.”

The film, The Con­duc­tor, a cere­bral and at times sur­real jour­ney into an artistic dream­scape—think Lars von Trier or Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn, but shot with a painter’s sense of color and com­po­si­tion—al­lowed Mann to take a four-month hia­tus from painting. That break from the easel di­rectly in­spired his new­est works, on view be­gin­ning Septem­ber 8 at Maxwell Alexan­der Gallery in Los An­ge­les. “…I de­cided to ap­proach the new paint­ings with an open air of ex­plo­ration, draw­ing from my ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist back­ground, us­ing tried-and-true tech­niques I learned from my MFA re­search (i.e., mak­ing my­self un­com­fort­able with the ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques to open new win­dows in this stale, dusty house) and feed­ing from some­thing I’ve been de­vel­op­ing for a long time now, my dark­room prints of Po­laroids from home­made cam­eras.”

Mann’s paint­ings—both his evoca­tive fig­ures and his shim­mer­ing cityscapes—have long fea­tured un­fin­ished edges, blocks of raw color and ab­stracted el­e­ments that sought to frame his sub­jects within an emo­tional veil of ex­pres­sion, but his new works are tran­scend­ing even fur­ther into this shat­ter­ing realm of color and form.

“You’re see­ing the re­sult of a hes­i­tant mind get­ting closer to a self-in­vented promise land. I per­son­ally know that de­stroy­ing and then re­build­ing paint­ings stage af­ter stage is not only thrilling af­ter the fact, but also has the look, the feel­ing of his­tory, melan­choly and mem­ory that I am want­ing in my art,” the Cal­i­for­nia painter says. “I’m not there yet, usu­ally it’s dead­lines for shows which hin­der this, and as

you say, you can see it en­croach­ing from the edges of the paint­ings and re­luc­tant to ap­pear near the fo­cal ar­eas. That’s just re­luc­tance, but it’s like put­ting cars in space; the point isn’t to have a lot of cars float­ing in space, that’s use­less, the point is to get bet­ter tech­nol­ogy see­ing if we can get such things into space. But peo­ple fo­cus on the silly car float­ing around. So when look­ing at my paint­ings now, you could say those ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist marks and ef­fects are ar­eas of test­ing ground on fi­nal paint­ings, see­ing how it works and re­acts to the sub­ject mat­ter, the feel­ing I want, the mood, while at the same time, ex­per­i­ment­ing with new ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques, build­ing new tools and try­ing them out on paint­ings that I’m afraid to screw up. A big swirling cy­cle of in­ven­tion, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, con­fi­dence­build­ing, as­sess­ment, and then back to in­ven­tion, keep­ing the re­sults I want, and per­fect­ing them along the way.

New works in­clude The Sound of Wilt­ing Lilies, fea­tur­ing a fig­ure calmly sit­ting in a cascade of white and gray paint that holds her within a ten­der still­ness, a rev­er­ence carved into the color. The painting was his first af­ter The Con­duc­tor, the hia­tus and the build­ing of his photo dark­room. “I went big, know­ing that’s what I want, and re­turned to my ear­li­est years of painting, with a com­pletely ren­dered un­der­paint­ing, color ton­ing and then fi­nal ren­der­ing…ev­ery damn leaf, blade of grass, hole in silk,” he says of the piece. “Days later, throw it on the floor and de­stroy with new tools and tech­niques, then bring it back to a new life. Al­most an al­le­gory for where I am in my life as an artist. I’m not sure that’s nec­es­sar­ily ev­i­dent in the painting it­self, but as ev­ery painting, ev­ery cre­ation an artist makes, is just one baby step to­ward the place he wants to be—I feel like this was two baby steps.”

While the new paint­ings seem to be reach­ing fur­ther into the mael­strom than Mann’s pre­vi­ous works, they are still un­equiv­o­cally Jeremy Mann paint­ings, ones that can be iden­ti­fied as his from across a room.

“I al­ways tell the story—usu­ally starts at the bar, which is just for some hu­man­ism— but the point is that I broke my­self away from what I was be­ing taught, what I was see­ing around me in the art world, and went off on my own with two im­por­tant rules: gain wis­dom and ex­per­i­ment. Mix­ing those two goals, an artist will con­stantly evolve from push­ing them­selves to find new ways of say­ing what they want to say, and then be­ing aware of the ef­fects with the wis­dom to de­cide and choose for your­self which ones you like and which ones you don’t. Then, just do the ones you like per­fectly (that part has all the hard work in it). The great thing about this process is that I am mak­ing the judge­ment call, [with­out] con­fu­sion about ‘what sells,’ ‘will I get likes,’ ‘will other artists like this.’ Those ideas are poi­son, ridicu­lous to even en­ter the mind, and it makes me sick how preva­lent they are be­com­ing in artists of all stages. That is why you can iden­tify my art­work separate from any other, in­fused with other in­spi­ra­tions, but evolved to be my own, and across any medium. Hav­ing the sel­f­re­spect to be true to your­self, this is the fun­da­men­tal rea­son­ing and goal in ev­ery work­shop I teach—to be you, not me. It’s al­ready dif­fi­cult to be me, it’s easy to be your­self.”

1The Sound of Wilt­ing Lilies, oil, 48 x 64"2Ghost, oil on pa­per, 35 x 35"3The Raven, oil, 48 x 36"

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