Live! From Therapy: Jonni Cheatwood's London Debut
Who doesn't love a good, informed, and grounded evolution of someone's artistic practice?! After showcasing Jonni Cheatwood's work back in 2018, and introducing his unique technique, we're thrilled to see the Brazilian-American artist developing a completely new body of work for his solo debut with Beers gallery in London by applying the same methodology.
One of the main qualities of Cheatwood's work were always the energized blend of marks, squiggles, doodles, as well as the custom-sewn patchwork that were utilized for the construction of vibrant abstracted compositions. Over time, these elements started earning new traits, the overall layout got tamed, as the work transformed into captivating figurative scenes. The feeling of coherence and stronger impact of these visuals wasn't accidental though, as it directly reflects the artist's personal development and experiences. "I feel like over the years I used abstract expressionism as a vehicle to escape a lot of thoughts and feelings," he told Juxtapoz, explaining how this shift came about. "However, over this last year and everything that came with the year, I felt like it was necessary to make work that told a more relatable story and share perspective as a person of color with themes of social issues, interracial marriage, anxiety, depression, joy, confusion, etc. We all have our own version of 2020, so it seemed important to make this work." And this is where the revealing and self-aware chuckle-inducing title Live! From Therapy, comes from.
Reaching towards more personal notions and revealing parts of his own history, as well as placing those in a wider contest, resulted in a body of work in which traditional tropes are being reworked through his peculiar practice and visual language. Utilizing the same techniques, materials, fabrics, and gestural movements as in his previous work, Cheatwood is now determined and confident to present his emotions and concerns in a more representational manner. Leaving fewer elements for interpretation, these abstracted figurations were somewhat informed by the oeuvres of Henry Taylor, Alice Neel, Benny Andrews, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Max Beckmann, as the artist told us. Both personal and revealing, as well as ambiguous and universal, they are still self-reflexive, tongue-in-cheek, humorous, and light-hearted but simultaneously poignant and familiar. Based on vintage family photos, the evocative compositions are instantly relatable, right before they deconstruct into their abstracted sections. Starting with the way he builds the space, and culminating in the faces of protagonists which are almost exclusively portrayed with a smear of vibrant colors. "I think that I’m forever exploring the abstract and I believe that my work thrives in between the abstract and the surrealism. I wanted to explore these figurative paintings in a way that seems relatable and in a way give them emotions through the vibrant colors, or darker colors," Cheatwood told us about his relationship with the two languages whose intertwinement allowed for this exciting expansion of his lexicon. —Sasha Bogojev