"Dumbass" oil on canvas, 44" x 32" 1999.
"Jai Hart/Aaron Zimmerman" by Flavio Brognoli for Juliet Art Magazine
#100. Italy, November 2000.
For years the hotbed of some of the most recognized American artistic
talents today (among them Sara Sze, present at the last Venice Biennale and at the
current Whitney Biennial; the painter Inka Essenhigh, one of Jeffrey Deitch's most
recent recruits; and the Italian Luca Buvoli, represented by John Weber of New
York), The School of Visual Arts (SVA) is one of the most prestigious art schools
in New York. But other New Yorkers belonging to the same generation, coming
from different cultural backgrounds, are approached here precisely because they
refer to the very rich panorama that the school offers.
Aaron Zimmerman, born in 1975 in West Virginia, moved to New York in
1997, where he continues to live and work. His canvases, with their gaudy colors
and full-bodied compositions, were born, as the artist himself tells, from a
"premonition" he had in 1996: "Cable TV will save my life" (La televisione privata
mi salverà la vita). Almost a year later, while watching the Cartoon Network, the
artist rediscovered old friends with whom he had grown up: The Smurfs, He-Man,
The Transformers, and countless others, products that now form an integral part
of the subculture of American society and beyond.
To the eye of a young adult, however, such once-familiar characters now
assume a different depth, becoming shapes and colors ready to be filtered and
interpreted. From the totality of the image, details are extrapolated and elaborated
on using Photoshop on a computer. They are then brought back to the canvas. Flat
backgrounds and thick brush-strokes, fierce contours that delimit the features
that compose the canvas assume at times an almost abstract connotation. But now,
with more careful examination, one can make out a knee or, perhaps, a light bulb,
or a glimpse of a voracious set of wolfish teeth in which the whitely sharpened
Jai Hart, meanwhile, was born in 1969 on the continent of Asia, in Seoul. At
the age of two she was found lost and roaming the streets of the Korean capital.
Brought into an orphanage, she was adopted in 1972 by an American family who
brought her to the United States, where she began her new life in a small town in
Idaho. After traveling extensively both in the United States and abroad with her
adoptive family, Jai moved to New York for good in 1998, the year in which she
enrolled in the School of Visual Arts.
While Zimmerman plays with strong colors and harsh demarcations, the
works of Jai Hart are lost in delicate shades of almost imperceptible contours.
The pictures are painted on translucent and transparent materials like silk and
chiffon. After binding and fastened the fabric onto a frame, the artist lays the
picture flat and drips large quantities of acrylic on it, allowing the color to escape
from the frame, as such invading the support level. Once it has dried, the acrylic
forms a thick glossy layer with a rubbery consistency, which becomes a pure,
independent color that does not require the support for its autonomy. At this point
the second phase of the work begins.
The rest of the picture is painted with strongly diluted acrylic colors, such
that they appear as watercolors. The tonalities are now faded and delicate, clouds
of color among which recognizable shapes and figures float: now they are noses,
now people on bicycles or skiers immersed in an expanse of pure white snow.
Often the picture is painted on an overleaf or on the wall on which it is hung,
allowing the work to be read on more levels.
As the artist tells, the objective is to create a sense of depth that surpasses
the two-dimensionality of the work. The fascinating combination of "free" painting
left to the intervention of chance and the voluntary intervention on the part of the
artist transform these works into open structures that are legible in their totality:
the canvas does not conceal but reveals, becomes an open door to virgin territories.
The painterly extremes, now present on the New York scene, reveal the
influence, still strong and evident, of Pop Art, along with the desire to surpass it
with painting of delicate colors and faded forms, emblematically represented by
the Russian colorists of the last century.
To see the article as it originally appeared in Italian go here.
To see more work from this group go here.