Jess Black

 Image: Shanoa Garcia,  SAGE Projects

Image: Shanoa Garcia, SAGE Projects

When I saw Jess Black's new work, my heart pitter pattered a little bit. Every piece resonated with me and I wanted to study every inch of the canvas. 

Jess Black grew up around Chicago, fled to New York at age 17 with only $400 in his pocket and signed a modeling contract a short time later. Fast forward a little bit and Black is now a well known, neo and abstract expressionist artist living in Los Angeles with an all new body of work.

Black's new work, curated by SAGE Projects and currently on display in a solo exhibition titled, "Timely Disorder", seeks to communicate and explore tendencies toward divided attention of the contemporary mind, while cultivating awareness of one's own engagement with this modern day disposition. 

See Jess Black's interview below!

White Wigs of the Court

Your work has garnered a lot of critical acclaim and attention. Some critics are even drawing comparisons between your work and that of Jean Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, and Wassily Kandinsky. How do such comparisons make you feel? Does it add a certain level of pressure?

I don't really think about it honestly. I don't  have a formal arts education and I certainly didn't study art history, so when the comparisons began I had to do quick google searches on my phone to decide if the comparisons were compliments.  I'm a little wiser these days about the artists who came before me.  I understand that people like to make comparisons so they can fit you neatly into categories.  For me the comparisons make me want to dig deeper and ensure that I am presenting work that is 100% me and not reflective of those from another generation. Though I have to admit that I do hope that in 50 years someone sees a young painter and says to him, "That looks a little like a Jess Black."

Timely Disorder.jpeg

I'm very interested in the pivotal moments in people's lives - usually moments that don't seem that significant until retrospect. Looking back, what would you say is the most critical moment in the earliest part of your career as an artist?  

I would have to say when I made the decision to be a full time artist and made that my path. I have done several things in the past for work. Not too terribly long ago when I made the decision to pursue art and only art, was life changing. There was no "B" plan. I had and do have tunnel vision. I think that is important.

What's next for you and your work? 

I was just discussing this with my manager.  I know I am going to be doing a show in Paris, France, probably in Spring 2015.  However, I have no idea what I will be painting or what type of collection will develop.  There have been a lot of issues I've wanted to explore in art . . . issues you wouldn't think would work with a visual medium, but I may give it a try.

On Your Every Word.jpeg

Do you have a dream collaboration?  

Hmm... I have a deep respect for writers, maybe because I feel like I have zero talent in that area. People who tell beautiful stories, paint pictures really with their words are amazing to me. I would at some point maybe like to collaborate with a writer in some form. Maybe a collection of paintings that mirror some sort of script, book or life story. Something where the words and the paintings all come together to tell the story.

It seems like you have a lot of creative talent that extends beyond painting. How do these other passions and talents influence your painting?

I think creativity takes many forms.  I sing, I even recorded an album awhile ago.  I enjoy cooking and have been told that I am pretty good at it.  I think it is all part of the creative process.  I think a lot of artists express their creativity with more than one outlet.  I view the world from a creative perspective.  As such, everything influences my paintings.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become a professional artist? 

It really depends on your goals as an artist.  If it is just to create, then create.  Paint or sculpt or draw as much as you can and let the creativity flow through you.  If your goal is to be an artist who earns a living from your creativity, then you have to have business savvy.  You have to learn to look at your art as not only an expression of who you are, but also as a commodity.  If you find that you are having a hard time separating your emotions from the business side, then find someone to partner with who can.

Breaking Binds.jpeg

What artists do you look to for inspiration or who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

There is the Australian artist Brett Whitely who is no longer with us. I admire his work but I am inspired by how he navigated the art world as a working artist. He, like me had no formal training. He was extremely business savvy. But at the same time took a lot of risks creatively.

I recently came upon a photographer named Dean West who does this beautiful surrealist photography. He has a series of beach scenes that I love.


Do you collect art? If so, what was the first piece of art in your collection?

I actually don't collect 2D art.  So many of my own works are on my walls and then they sell and new works go up.  What does seem to inspire me are fabrics.  I love patterns and color combinations.  I might have a bowl I bought at a thrift store, but my pillows are custom made from imported fabrics.  :)

What's the best thing about being an artist in LA?

After being an artist in NYC I would have to say the weather.  The sun is amazing here.  The light is amazing.  I can create all year round without the feeling that I need to hibernate between October and April.

If someone is visiting LA for 24 hours, what are the things they must do while they're there?

The beach. Sand and sun. After living in NYC for a very long time when I walk on the beach here I always think to myself "I'm living the California dream"!

Jess Black's show will be on view at the Gateway Gallery @ Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles until August 14, 2014. 

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