Jess Valice: Good Grief @ Bill Brady Gallery, Los Angeles
You wonât notice the droplets of blood at first. Youâll be too distracted by the physicality of the body before you, with its distorted proportions and grotesque features. Youâll follow a thigh or thumb or a neckline, a clever Boterismo technique, but the real story is in the face; soon, youâll make out a mouth that isnât really there. Then the uber-pinched nose, which leads you to two bulging saucers (think Margaret Keane and her big eyes attached to a Carroll Dunham nudes). But then, as you get closer, maybe a bit introspective, certainly more curious, youâll sense a profound, abject sadness in the subjects. Itâs hard to say why, but itâs there. The warped proportions become MacGuffins concealing more to the story: a bleeding finger, a syringe, an open window.
Jess Valiceâs figurative portraitsâcartoonish in style, ambitious in scaleâare an ongoing study in the absurdity of human experience. As cells, we are born to die, thatâs our definition, and itâs something Valice, a 25-year-old pre-med dropout, knows intimately. Sheâs lived and worked within the paradox of memento mori since her fatherâs death in August, finding comfort (maybe even purpose) in the human ritual of bereavement. âGood Grief,â the artistâs debut solo show at Bill Brady Gallery in her hometown of Los Angeles, is a compendium of those two opposing thoughts, finding a happy medium in the waves of loss and mourning against celebration and art.
Zooming out, youâll begin to appreciate the playful and crude narratives that embellish the 11 paintings. One pours coffee on his own hand, another stretches topless while two wander at sea in a punctured raft. Throughout, they remain ostensibly expressionless; their biomorphic eyes and ears offer no clues. Thereâs a hilarity to the strangeness, a deadpan reaction to uncertainty and pain and adventure. Like how an ear canal or an iris can function as a thumb printâeach one unique to its owner, fully formed at birth, unmistakable under magnification and focusâthe many faces of âGood Griefâ share a quality but not a story. That you have to find on your own.
Written by Mariella Rudi