Allegra La Viola gallery is pleased to present Jackie and Judy, the first solo New York gallery exhibition by Jeremy Willis.
The title comes from a pair of Ramones songs describing the adventures of two wayward girls. The paintings draw as much from the exuberance of the music as from the description of these fictional heroines. The images play out like a series of vignettes, concerning women engulfed by music, art, sex, substance and ambition in the context of America’s antic celebrity culture.
A New Orleans native who has lived and worked in New York for the last 10 years, Willis combines the gestural energy of expressionism with the narrative potential of sequential art. The impact of the paintings lies in the intensity of their bold, lush brushwork combined with a restless compositional inventiveness. They appear to be disjointed, almost literally cut into pieces. Often the main figures are painted with sharply contrasting values, and set against areas of intense color. The result calls to mind disparate historical styles, including baroque painting, Neue Schlicheit, and 1960s comics and psychedelia. Layered passages contrast beautifully with more quickly applied areas. These variations coalesce to make discomfiting, lurid and beguiling visual puzzles.
Willis imbues his subjects with a threatening presence not unlike the heroines of Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch. Jackie and Judy and their painted sisters embody personal freedom and limitless potential while exemplifying the darker reaches of our own era’s unchecked ambition. The subjects deliberately interface with the viewer in direct and provocative gestures. They ask questions about the nature of narcissism, hedonism, and desire. Love, once wrote a wise man comes in spurts.