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Jennifer Wynne Reeves
The Initial Impulse Paintings (1999)
October 18 - November 24th
Opening Thursday October 18 6-8
By John Post Lee
A book was recently published on Jennifer's work and its relationship to her FaceBook page which was an astonishing series of daily dispatches on her life, art, interactions and her struggle against illness which finally took her in 2014 at the age of 53. John Lee, bravinlee programs partner was asked to write an essay for the book which follows here.
Art dealers are not asked to write about their artists for publication too often—and that’s probably a very good thing. It’s an honor to write this forward about Jennifer Reeves and to have been her friend, her agent and compatriot. It is said a good gallerist should be like the corpse at a wake—show up, look natural, but keep his remarks short. Alas, the short part is not my strength but I’ll do my best…
Jennifer’s work is beautiful.
She was a true believer in pleasure, in the intrinsic, sensual, emotive nature of skillfully applied paint to convey meaning, emotion and story. I witnessed savvy art worlders bowled over by her work, in some cases literally gasping— and then I’ve watched them recompose themselves as if it was an embarrassment or even a weakness of character to be so moved. In an art world rife with mock-solemnity and slackerism, Jennifer was unabashedly joyful and sincere and personal and an unrepentant master of paint handling, color, form, composition and surface. She never took the art world’s bait by making her work less compelling or less beautiful than she knew how.
Jennifer lived out loud.
Through her intensely personal Facebook posts that juxtaposed her work with diaristic observations about her life and art, Jennifer hit a chord with a wide audience—from within the art world and way outside I didn’t realize the extent of her reach until after she passed away and our exhibition, “Final Edit 1A” in September 2014, at BravinLee became a sort of shrine. Daily we receive visitors coming directly from planes trains and automobiles with their rolling suitcases, paying homage to Jennifer’s life and work, often having never visited an art gallery-- asking if there was an admission fee. Some ended up breaking down and crying in the middle of the gallery. It was unlike any exhibition we had ever had and was a difficult but amazing experience-- a much needed post-middle-age re-charge reminder that art, and writing, were potentially more than decorative capitalism or theory but could be powerful and important and essential to understanding life and death.
Jennifer loved her “guys.”
With a shared interest in abstract painting, Jennifer’s path and my own were intertwined. The way the elements in her paintings behaved like figures on a stage was always my cup of tea. Her skillful wizardry in applying acrylic mediums, making them appear as translucent layers of oil painting, or like dry fresco or like runny gouache and watercolor or like cake-frosting or like the cracking paint on an old barn wall, there was really nothing she couldn’t achieve, with a medium that is often considered to be the stepchild of proper painting. Her surfaces are an entire separate category. Alongside artists like Jonathan Lasker and Thomas Nozkowski (to name two that we both intensely admired), Jennifer forged into the seam between abstraction and representation, between painting and picture making, between the facture and sensuality of pure painting for its own sake and its potential to conjure meanings and fictions. When Jennifer and I would talk about her work we would refer to the motifs and images in her work as “guys,” this little red guy or this big blobby guy…
‘When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your laugh. So you become a hero rather than the victim of the joke.’
Over the course of her career and life she had successes and setbacks but seemed to speak of them with a sense of someone at peace with the rollercoaster of highs and lows in work, romance, and health, everything is copy as Nora Ephron said. God forbid I said should end up saying something stupid that would end up as a voice balloon of the “lame-ass art dealer” motif in her painting! Near the end—I invited her to make a solo show of new paintings for an art fair in New York and I knew that it was a race with the time she had left. The show was a spiritual revelation. The night of the opening she arrived and ended up going to the hospital. I have guilt about the whole thing, but I know making work for shows is precisely how Jennifer lived and she would have wanted to spend her final days living and creating beauty and truth rather than idly waiting for the end.
In her lifetime, Jennifer Wynne Reeves enjoyed solo exhibitions at Art & Public in Geneva, Stux Gallery, New York, Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome, The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, Gorney Bravin + Lee, Max Protetch and Ramis Barquet and BravinLee Programs in NYC. Jennifer Reeves' one person exhibition at the Drawing Center, All Right for Now opened last week and includes a catalogue with essays by Curator Claire Gilman and artist Matthew Weinstein. Reeves has also been celebrated for her introspective prose. She produced a graphic novel, The Anyway Ember in 2008 and Soul Bolt (a book of her set-up photography and writings in 2012). She was selected as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Click the link below to order the new book on her life and work "Jennifer W. Reeves on Facebook insightful on a blank page scratch by scratch" including an essay by John Yau and John Post Lee.