Jesse Harris

Language Sex Violence

March 9 - April 14, 2017

Georgia Scherman Projects presents Language Sex Violence, a solo exhibition of new work by Toronto artist Jesse Harris.

Harris maintains a message-oriented art practice as a personal platform for the direct communication of his do-it-yourself politics. His work plays participant in a larger discussion of the limits of free expression in culture.

Many of these new works are based on found images from sources ranging from ‘50s digest cartoons, and album covers, to academic essays on media by Wilson Bryan Key, and little-known drawing manuals like “How to Pose the Model.” For each work, meaningful material choices adopt a vocabulary of signs associated with Punk and Pop Art as strategy and gesture.

A new series of silkscreen blowups depicts disputed examples of subliminal messages embedded in advertising. Considered as hidden manipulations made to seduce the audience or as visual protests inserted by photo re-touchers into popular ads, embeds are commonly thought of as fabrications or projections of the viewer's imagination. Harris considers them as readymade texts and has reproduced them onto canvasses, stretched around the silkscreens used in their printing. 

Two recent works are oil paintings, which Harris commissioned from an art reproduction service in China.  The paintings are displayed leaning in imitation of their depicted subjects who are themselves leaning against walls. One pair features four New York Conceptual artists namely Robby, Dougie, Joey and Larry and the other, four Ramones, Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy. Their posture and influence is compared in homage. 

In a recent series of photographic engravings in mirrorized vinyl, cut with a razor, the etched marks resemble microgrooves of vinyl records, making material cues to razorblades for cut-and-paste-up graphics, self-mutilation, drug use and exponential references to rock'n'roll. The engraved snapshot images demonstrate a collapsed relationship between audience and performer proper.Close viewing displays a high degree of detail, a strong play of spotlight and a reflection of the viewer's gaze in the mirrored surface.

In his work, Harris emphasizes multiple-meanings and humour to increase possible, simultaneous and contradictory readings when received by a viewer and a varied audience. Obvious references are made to Punk and it's kitsch, modern histories of Pop and Conceptual Art, and radical momentum in mass and counter culture as admission to an existing conversation.