Jessica Simorte’s Radical Softness by Max Manning
I have one point of envy for those who are unfamiliar with Jessica Simorte’s work. They have yet to experience her tiny painting’s offered surprises of aggressive sensitivity and radical softness, for the first time. You’ve seen paintings like these before, but then again, you haven’t. The paintings are built with a language of visual paradox that is specific to the new generation of art and visual culture, and for all of their surprise and unexpectedness, these works can very well be situated under the umbrella of The New Sincerity. This is work that is at home in the white cube, which we well know is being dissolved in an acid bath, as well as domestic space, and the internet’s public space. The paintings are inviting and soulful, but despite these warm and fuzzy notions, they are not naïve or academically ignorant. In our bleak social moment, art that presents a beautifully optimistic and empathic way of experiencing life is profound, and artists like Simorte are doing their best to contribute to an effort of making the world a better place without heroically announcing that they are saving it.
The scale of the paintings is similar to that of an inside joke, but do not let this analogy fool you, these are serious paintings. The most recent iterations of Simorte’s work have been primarily in the 8 x 6 inch format and are materially composed of acrylic on canvas. I defy a viewer to find any compositional element in one of these paintings that could be eliminated. These images are essential in composition without being minimal, much like the work of Richard Tuttle or Forrest Bess. It would be easy to knee-jerk label these paintings as pretty, but the devil is in the details here. The power of Simorte’s particular brand of abstraction is its ability to be read and digested in many different frameworks simultaneously. Perhaps there is a millennial perspective on intellectual ownership at play in the work’s roaming sense of painterly language. If so, I don’t read it as a tongue-in-cheek historical metahumor, there is more at stake. What we have is a studied and sophisticated painting space that has been customized and altered to evoke a sense of place. In mining the visual stimuli found in everyday life, Simorte adopts a well-established approach to moving the medium of painting forward. This is how the work maintains a relationship to the personal without delving too deeply into specific personal narrative. The paintings are accessible, adjacent to universality, poetic snippets of experienced time and space.
Simorte is an inventive and original shape maker. This does not mean that you won’t get your fill of the classics. For instance, in a panting like Shared Space, two circles dominate the composition with a backdrop of The Grid. The serious formal investigation that takes place here wins the day, but one could also enjoy the relationship of the classic geometry to the notion of shared space as suggested in the painting’s title. The bottom circle is truncated by the frame of the painting’s support and the top circle gently clings to the opposite end. This suggests to a viewer that the image could continue beyond the frame and perhaps that the world continues to spin throughout their viewership. Each circle is of the red variety. One is primary and slightly transparent, the other is a deep crimson whose opacity leaps forward in the painting’s space. While all of this is happening in the front of the image, a pencil drawn grid gives us a not-your-grandfather’s modernist time signature. Strategic coloration applied to the squares within the background as well as irregularity in the vertical grid lines coupled with two gestural marks on each side of the canvas, imply a space that is active and dynamic. This allows the two circles to function as characters and inhabit a space, sharing times of harmony and conflict.
This is the last paragraph of this article, but it will not offer the usual sense of closure dictated by the traditional essay format. It is unseemly to close the dialogue on a body of work that is both growing and open-ended in spirit. Go to jessicasimorte.com or follow her on Instagram, there is much yet to be seen from Simorte. Like many young artists, she uses social media not as a tool for marketing but a viable exhibition platform. She is a budding force whose relative underrepresentation in the art world establishment is likely to change. With so much ugliness to be seen in the world today, choosing to see beauty is radical. To those of you reading this article, I suggest you follow along to see the life affirming beauty that Simorte draws attention to, through paint and not through paint.
by Max Manning [the artist's husband]