Sunday, August 07, 2011

8.6.2011, FTW

Went to an auction of Jesse Sierra Hernandez's paintings at his Studio 5 in south Fort Worth. The event was put together by Christopher Blay of Thrift Art Show fame to help Jesse clear out some space in his digs (the studio is also a residence) and raise some coin for his wedding next May. A couple dozen local art aficionados showed up, many of whom remembered seeing Jesse's work hanging in the late, lamented Wreck Room (with which his previous workspace, Studio 4, shared a building for awhile).

Chris made the point that in the years to come, the Amon Carter and the Kimbell (where Jesse works as a preparator when he's not slinging paint) will be looking to collect the works of living American artists like Jesse, if they're true to their stated missions. (Local art eminence Nancy Lamb sent a surrogate, who bid successfully on a couple of pieces.) "Who decides what art is worth?" Blay asked rhetorically, echoing his Thrift Art alter ego Frank Artsmarter. "Tonight, the people in this room, not billionaires" -- although those of us who bid did so knowing that the prices we wound up paying were way below the true value of Jesse's art.

Jesse's best known for his nudes and musicians, and there were certainly plenty of those in the show's catalog, along with some stunning surprises, like the Sistine Chapel ceiling homage Libyan Sybil After Michelangelo 1997. His "floating" figures from ca. 2006, which use negative space to show the bodies free of context, were highly impactful, but my favorite of his works are in the more personal and political vein he adopted around the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. War. What's it good for? was painted the night of the invasion and has a ghostly, spectral air. Mexican American, American Mexican shows a young man with Aztec tattoos standing before U.S. and Mexican flags, with a conquistador helmet and spear and a GI's helmet and M-16 at his feet.

Now Swim Back and Get the Fuck Out are angry responses to the ordinance passed by the city of Farmer's Branch, Texas, in 2007, which made it illegal to rent or lease living space to illegal aliens or non-U.S. citizens. Cortes the Killer, which appeared on the catalog's cover, was a Caravaggio-inspired depiction of the conquest of the New World. I was half-ass hoping that the original Cortes the Killer, an extreme and striking departure that was part of a solo show Jesse had at Gallery 414 in 2003, would magically re-appear for the auction, but Jesse says that it was really lost in transit from San Antonio not long after that show. Now _that_ would be something to find.


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