|curator's statement||june 2012 selection|
m a y b e I ' m h e a d i n g i n t o a n o t h e r c h a n g e . I h o p e s o .1
c u r a t o r : m a t t h i a s h e r r m a n n
When I first discovered Jimmy DeSana's work (already quite late in my own career as an artist) it hit me hard: a feeling similar to the one Mapplethorpe described upon discovering 42nd street porn for the first time. Here's an artist whose work is fresh and beautiful and sexy and intelligent and full of knowledge about his medium and its context (and how to expand it -- we're talking about the '70s and '80s), exuberant, overwhelming and overflowing with energy and >complete< in the best sense of the word. It's dangerous work and at the same time it gives you a feeling of joy and makes you rejoice: ecco un artista. Still, there is not a single trace in any of DeSana's works that caters to an idea of bourgeois decency. I reckon this makes him an outlaw and an insider at the same time (especially in the conservative American climate of the 1980s), depending on your point of departure. As Roberta Smith put it: "Jimmy DeSana had always done as he pleased, exploring the limits of his medium and his subject. Ultimately, it is the intuitive quality of his work that draws us to it. In DeSana's art elegance and honesty are merely two sides of the single coin of life".2
The transition from the earlier more overtly provocative work to the later abstract pieces seems very smooth and logical in retrospect: the artist is always present, no matter whether we see him or not. I am tempted to attribute the elegance Roberta Smith writes about to the abstract work and the honesty to the more edgy, sexual work, but that is too short a thought. It is both there, always.
Strangely I didn't feel threatened by the work (like: Oh, all this has been done before) and I still don't. The work exudes a sense of generosity that I interpret as a triumph of true artistic vision over mundane things like career, jealousy and envy -- alas not about death.
b i o g r a p h y
Matthias Herrmann is an artist working with photography and he has used himself as a model in a lot of his work over the years. He feels the same as Jimmy DeSana when he observed: "It's me looking at myself as a prop, as an object, but it is me".3 Oh, and he adores Jimmy's sense of humour, in the work itself but also like in the following excerpt of an interview with Jimmy by Laurie Simmons:
JDS: I found Submissions [his book published in 1979 with an introduction by William Burroughs] to be humorous, but a lot of people did not. They couldn't see the humour at all. There are certain images that I still find very funny.
n o t e s
All quotes are from A.R.T.press' Jimmy DeSana monograph published in 1990