Artweek, Palo Alto, CA, July/August Vol 38, Issue 6
This latest body of work from young Portland-cased artist Jesse Reno is a vibrant, assertively prosaic compendium of poignant, fraught imagery and symbolism culled from the terrain of the artist's personal vaguely pagan cosmological system. A nearly overwhelming number of mid-sized paintings each portray just one or two characters; all are surrounded by swirling atmospheres of schematic landscapes and elements of tribal idioms such as arrows, wave signs, feathers, zoomorphic spirit guides like eagles and bulls, ciphers, sun flares, flat moons, crosses and flowers and red auras. Creatures share horns, humans appears as wizened children; mountain ranges double as crowns. "With One Horn and Human Faces" demonstrated the series' pervasive compositional mannerism of embedding within the animals contours images of human faces. Other titles go a long way toward telling the intentions of this work: "Knowledge Does Not Equal Wisdom", "Engaging with Nature", "Be Aware of Your Position" and "When an Idea Dies So Does Its Spirit" hint through their emphatic emotional impact and mysterious ambiguity at both the promise and pitfalls of the human journey toward self-awareness.
While at first glance a tribal sensibility is undeniable, the story the series relates is an unmistakably modern and even urban parable of hard-won street smarts and insight into the nature of reality gained through arduous experience rather than the apprehension of abstract spiritual precepts. It could believably have been taken from an art therapy journal or non verbal diary, forming a kind of multifaceted, ongoing self-portrait. This series does in fact exists as the visual chronicle of an individual's personal spiritual journey, but it's also edgy and raw, and despite the soothing snowy and earthly palette it communicates a disturbance, a disruption in the harmony that roils below the surface. "God Made the Ocean out of Tears" hints at the poetic mythological underpinnings of the dark and light aspects of the project.
The installation piece "You Will Know It's Coming When You Feel It" was created as a performative live-painting composition that Reno executed during the four hours of the opening night. It demonstrates his ideas about th way in which art functions as a gathering and reflecting of energy and influences from the environment in which it is created, just like people themselves. The painting is frenetic and floridly hued, dense with detail, visibly built from several layers of recorded and erased and painted-over imagery that occasionally bleeds up to float on the surface; it's every bit as vibrant as the work is introspective and poetic. It declares "There are Many Ways for One to Rise" across it's top edge and in this seems to refer to the paradoxical possibility of sustaining multiple states of consciousness. Again, this kind of idea finds physical expression in the paintings own use of multiple ways of communicating information. Neither naturalistic nor illustrative, instead ritualistic and para-lingual, Reno's work bypasses the obstacle course of verbiage in favor of the ancient, tried-and-true method of direct, minimally mediated systems of archetypes and icons which our culture both tramples and idealizes and an indicator of an untenably pure state of being.
-Shana Nys Dambrot
Press Release for Upper Playground - August, 2008
In the latest series of paintings by Portland-based artist Jesse Reno, shamanic beings struggle to find their place in a world simultaneously on the verge of expanding and collapsing. Totem animals and Native American figures reverberate memories of people who once lived as one with nature. Marked by symbols, these figures seek their dreams in the growth of trees and the passing of spirits. On their quest to find their true selves, they collect feathers and relics left by past encounters and past lives. They learn to transcend the boundaries of the rational world evolving into a collage of what they have become and encountered. In this body of work, Reno presents us with a journey leading inward to ultimately expand outward: "If you have moved wisely your dreams will still grow when you are gone."
Artist Statement - July, 2008
know your destiny
exert your energy and know who surrounds you
when it comes from within it is easy to see ? when you can
resonate your purpose without words
pyramids force hearts to lay on their sides ? they have built
many pyramids to create debts and demand our attention
leaving our hearts on their sides - lessons and skeletons
they will show their intentions
permanent markings will always remind you
they will try to take it all little by little
there was a face in the mountain power, energy and
connection all come from many directions
pay attention to your growth there is no escape from yourself
no words ? much can be told by the measure of one?s circles
they will talk to you as though you have never grown
moving forward with all you got
many things will attempt to block your spirit
i am looking for the ghost of a buff alo gone long ago
i was a ghost looking for a buff alo who had been killed long ago
now his horns grow from my shoulders
a wise chief once said question what you see not that you see it
we must remain focused while waiting for thunder
integrity and truth
ideas grow like a tree from his head
deer boy relinquishes snake
the diff erence between ignorance and irrelevance
be mindful of your steps when there are snakes in your path
especially when they cannot see you
blind snakes are very dangerous
the difference between a stone and an egg ? one will hatch
it?s best to forget yesterday and focus on today
sometimes meaning is not translatable
he grew legs to walk and then gave them up to swim
learn to let go we crawled from the sea a very long time ago
those who threaten are not friends
running above the ground ? evolver
he grew branches instead of looking for a wall to sit on
looking back as you move forward
if the indian ghost dance failed i doubt we can raise the dead
when balancing skeletons pushes your head to it?s side
waiting for tomorrow
like meeting your potential
two bears search for direction - connection above all else
Press release for BLK/MRKT Gallery - April 15th, 2007
Los Angeles - BLK/MRKT Gallery is proud to announce Symbols and Beings, the first Los Angeles solo exhibition of Portland-based artist Jesse Reno.
The innate beauty of Reno's engaging, many-layered paintings invites the viewer into the artist's complex personal mythology, which seeks to explore the increasing disconnect between humanity and nature. Each work can be read as a segment of a continuing allegory concerning humankind's struggle to find our rightful place in the natural scheme of things. Terming people "the most domesticated of animals", Reno works to recall the wild origins of the human soul and does so convincingly.
It follows that anthropomorphism figures heavily in Reno's work?human features and physiques coalesce with characteristics of iconic beasts such as snakes, birds and deer?evoking feelings of compassion and idealized innocence that play against recurring themes of angst and entrapment. These visual symbols and the occasional use of typography are evocative of cave art and petroglyphs, and much like the visual traces left by pre-historic societies, these works function not as ends in themselves, but rather as portals into an ineffable understanding of human existence. Inspired as he is by aboriginal and prehistoric societies, Reno terms his art neo-primitivism, a term which captures both the roots of his practice and his aspirations for renewal.
Entirely self-taught, Reno decided early in his career to forego formal training, opting to develop his individualistic style through a prolific and exuberant output of creation. His materials range from acrylic paint and oil pastels to colored pencils laid primarily over wood panel and canvas. He generally works on five to ten canvases at once, apportioning equal time to each, in the interest of allowing the thematic content to germinate organically. Open as the artist is to the unfolding of subconscious content, his paintings emerge as pieces of a dreamlike mythic narrative.
Reno's work serves as a festive call for redemption; there may be monsters secreted in the confines of his privative schemes, but it soon becomes clear that these monsters are reflections of the human ego grown out of control and in disproportion with nature. In assimilating the message that individuals have the power to change for the better, the viewer understands that Reno, beyond being an artist, is able to assume the role of contemporary shaman?accessing totemic symbols for the purpose of restoring equilibrium between human beings and the environment?reminding us that the Earth is, in fact, our natural habitat.
BLK/MRKT Gallery, located in the heart of the Culver City Art District, was established in Los Angeles in 2001 with an emphasis on new contemporary art. Artists include Tiffany Bozic, Jeff Soto, Dave Kinsey, Ben Tour, Marion Lane and José Parlá. BMG is open Tues. ? Saturday 11-6pm. blkmrktgallery.com
Artist Statement - May 2007
without absolution - we meet in the stars - the constellation which is constant and unified beyond absolution - the biggest picture - like a human to an amoeba one million beyond counting.. one self until it is part of all things ? something else.. - knowledge ? All already trapped in absolution. We must re convene in the stars.. we are amoeba..
monkey see monkey do. be aware of your position ? we are all transactions - this is our system - so we may live like kings.. i do not like kings why are we trying to live like them? servants instead of gods..
Nothing is without meaning ? without meaning there is nothing ? we may be born again but to grow we must remember who we were before. I seek to engage with shamans.. still even such greatness should not confuse your own visions. It is a confusing world of things all used up.. teachers and systems. objects claim self importance while we fumble to collect them..
the sad reminder of stupid people
become - without a nest - flowers will collect us - this is how you got here..
shaman with similar visions ? this is universal wisdom ? you've never had a vision? comparing shaman like a coincidence. The similarity is the truth between spirits there is only one whole ? everything
the cup is completely empty ? this is existence. writing the days visions to let the mind rest, to relax these sore shoulders to tell the stories of tomorrow. to be free from kings to extend ideas through images ? i seek to meet with shaman.. and you?
the skeleton of Icarus still dreams for its bones. there is no one watching if you don't look back. a dead past will kill you if you stay. he comes in peace. engaging with animals. you can not force a random act. knowledge does not equal wisdom. whole moon ? cursed
god made the ocean out of tears ? close your eyes tight and maybe sprout wings...
bee keeper ? when you destroy the forest how will you transcend into the soil? learn to visualize. question what you see not that you see it. you spent half your life waiting to be someone else, now you don't know how to be yourself..
guardian of the pharaoh. 3 spirits. fertile ground. back to the sea from which it came
amnesia ? it is hard to know the outcome. an old cobra collects eggs. They came by boat to find the new world. Now they can not remember where they came from.
You can not close what has been opened
conquest the journey of lies ? there is no good in conquest. Control is always wrong. They came in the boats - like the backs of snakes. Some sort of new wisdom a new order. Not on a quest but a con quest. A journey of lies. To conquer. Spreading knowledge rather than wisdom. Not division or unity ? simply system. The lines of man are not his nature.. we must forget what we know before we can learn something new. flowers will collect us. A stone in a patch of daisies. little did i know not even whales are safe. someday there is no brighter side. you have no idea what your dealing with. you speak more than you listen... your actions will tell your intentions... before stars before boats when there were many whales and unicorns natives knew the truth. every exploration contaminates. we removed our feathers to blend in with boats - snakes arrived - soon no one wore feathers or believed in the magic of bears. we must concentrate to decipher our visions. They can be beyond the logic of molecules. this was the day i realized i came from the sea. i am a Thunderbird...
many arguments confuse the past and ruin the future. caught between being a man and a bear ? transformation - 13 cycles - a vessel reduced to its core. when a phoenix greets a bear. history will answer questions you can not change. tangled in bear traps they will carry forward under masks.
In the end Truth will measure..
All that is specific to human kind
Religion - Empire - Control - Ownership - Greed - War - Class Race - Righteousness - Lies
Man separates himself from all other species, he uses his sense of consciousness to claim righteousness and self importance within the animal kingdom... he control cages and consumes any species of animal in anyway he sees fit... for pleasure power ego and exploitation... to do so he avoids his own consciousness by learning to lie to himself, he uses all his creations to distance himself from responsibility for the actions his conscious deems wrong... along the way he creates right and wrong to justify his actions and control the actions of other who might threaten him... he creates a god in his own image to take ultimate responsibility for those things he would rather not claim, religion is mans ultimate scapegoat... man creates angels and devils to guide him in an attempt to keep his lying conscious from getting him into too much trouble, and to blame for the actions he himself can not excuse... He seeks to control and secure his life at every turn believing he deserves more with each new day... he works and saves to achieve more and more control over his life, he follows trends and ideas thru popular opinion, he uses the opinions of the masses to secure his sense of righteousness... he then builds on these ideas to further separate himself from nature and even the rest of mankind... All along caging himself, feeling more and more alone, feeling more and more afraid and confused with the world around him... Fighting wars he does not understand... paying taxes to a system he knows only as empire... Breaking down all that is around him in terms of money class control ownership laws morals rules and gods all created and explained by his surroundings... when and if he stops to think for himself he will realize he is responsible for his own entrapment, and the animals he thinks he is above are free making all decisions based on personal instinct... the only true right or wrong... a personal decision made out of basic survival...
mans evolution has moved him towards civilization and man made systems rather than syncronicity with nature.. man recreates the rules of nature within his system structure. Favors and traits are passed down by dollars that maintain the dominant strains. A name breeds more success than genetics, this puts power in unworked hands. There is recklessness in spoil. All is reduced. Personal truth comes second in a world where all is paid in bills. He writes the bills, so he collects them. bills are written to serve man not nature. The truth somewhere in nature - occurring on its own... - six men rush to claim it in the name of nation. Responsibility lies in weight. Purpose and understanding. The most domestic of animals man claims and controls almost all the freedom in the world....
this is the story that tells itself to me, the wieght of personal truth regardless of its outcome. My work acts for no reason other than to convey an inner struggle for expression... simple and direct. open for interpretation. always with purpose. words mispelled left out just like real thinking, the disconnected string of thoughts that guides the day. this is my expression.. 200 times this year ive painted random layers of self introspection and visualization.. expanding and growing through trial and error. the paintings thicken with purpose as time goes on with each new thought learned, and each layer created, confirmed, rethought, re identified, and tested until it is true or removed.
i approach painting with random intentions to give a sense of natural order.. its integral to my process, as well as my intentions. i attempt to find meaning thru seperating myself from my thougths and then following them thru my actions. i generally work on 5 to 10 paintings at all times so i can jump between them all, and stay busy i try not to get to caught up with any one piece until it nears its end. i feel this keeps my self editing more honest, it keeps me from getting to atatched to one idea, and allows me to move on to follow rather than lead my thoughts. this is what i strive for more than anything in process, following what i see. i generally work on pieces in many small sessions so my assessments are new and fresh each time i sit down to work a piece. in the final stages i tend to make sense of the imagery and add any final touches. often it isnt until a painting is almost completely finished that i understand its meaning
My art relates to primitivism in the purest sense, it comes from within with strong belief. The images search for pureness in expression and connection beyond language... As in primitive cultures my creations remain pure as if they are my visual diaries, free from the concerns of technique, preconceived ideas, meaning, or concern for what has come before... they come from within, and manifest as expressions of the world that surrounds, like gods created in ones own image, a reflection of self...
Circle - repetition, a lack of progression potential madness.
Square - opportunity, potential progress
X - negativity, something to be avoided
Line - directness, moving in moments, reacting rather than acting
Five Lines - there is no point in keeping score
Crown - the king is always In control
Stars - accomplishment
Jesus - is helpless you must help yourself
King - seek to control
Angels - attempt to help you
Coffins - are for the dead
Tophats - business men have money on there minds
Dunce Caps - idiots can be smarter than you think
Swans - remind us to come to the pond
Devils - are always waiting
Totems - are truth
Primitives - are pure and instinctual
Clowns - are not to be trusted
Factories - make the sky black
Trees - are more civilized than man
Hollow - chalk outlines of someone who used to be there
Pegs - are helpless
Money - will make us all corrupt
Icarus - be aware of your rise
Rabbits - caught in headlights
spoken word - listen
Just holding on square knot slights the edge
Where are all my friends
Distance has its consequence
The bears lay there guns uninspired
I wish I could walk away take off this head lay face down and forget
Forget all of it
Substance transparent stop block cut and move
The sequel will be better
The sequel will be better
Everything you ever see
Blackhole absent prosthetic south paw
Mix spit with plastic and hope it doesn’t pop
Black eye blue lips im sorry your upset
I cant stop
Foot in mouth no excuse
That was yesterday
Today I just want to sleep
Today I just want to sleep
I can't breath
Id rather not understand
You all move so quickly
Propetual ice age
Road rage oblivious
Human stares beast
Sins and forgiveness
Trade moments for prayers
Souls for vanity
Mirrors occupy the wandering eye
Beautiful chaos floats in the tigers eye
Strange moments reflect and diolate
Black eye block out face down walk out
Still cant help but question
Is it getting better confined to numbers
What have you done
Sterilized the children
Bold face fills the page
The serenity of ignorance represents my tension
The arrogance that comes with size
Ones and zeros the objectivity of numbers
Leaves everything numb and fumbling
Silence creates its own words
I don't belong here
I don't belong here
You are now a product
Freedom is just a word but I use it
Labled priced and sold
With every word defined in our own terms
What the fuck are you saying
Pieces sorted in terms of change
A little too much money left to spend
We walk in circles
Saturday afternoon questions your vision
The effect unpredictable
Circles change reality
You stop yourself
Lines kept in line
Things change when your blind
Things change when your blind
I am not a product
Fuck the consumer
Fuck the warnings
Fuck whats safe
I am not a commercial
Fuck whats cool
Fuck what your friends think
Fuck what anyone thinks
I am not propaganda
Fuck the hype
I am not a salesman
Fuck what sells
Fuck the measure of your dollar
Fuck the consumer
Fat slack and dollar
Fuck your stolen inspirations
Alien tries to escape
Of course no one understands
The tv is right in front of me
The lie is right in my hand
Stars remind me im not home
Plastic smile skin falls off
Sterile pail and rusted cans
Can you even know your name
Aren't you just like me static 13
I saw it on the tv
Everyone will be saved
And everything will be sold
Everyone will be saved
When everything is sold
Everyone will be saved
When everything is sold