In his exhibition entitled Totems, Tallahassee-born Jimmy Joe Roche presents intricate, large-scale, hand-cut and hand-painted paper works that, like traditional totems, encapsulate the spiritual beliefs of a particular group. In this case, the artist captures the aura of his own Baltimore-based art collective/DIY warehouse music subculture. His pieces confront viewers with undulating masses of dripping color and symmetrical form, resembling futuristic creatures that have emerged from an uncharted Florida lagoon.
In Old Growth (2008), an anthropomorphic spirit, formed out of pigment and fibers, is seen rising up with all of the symmetry, mystery, and rhythm of Nature frozen in a moment of flux. The painstakingly lengthy and repetitive rituals of cutting and weaving that Roche undergoes to make his work become for him a “body mantra” or waking meditation that channels his bodily energy into these objects. Roche sees this process as an alchemical transformation of energy into a conceptual talisman that reverberates through the collective American unconscious.
Roche also is well-known for his video work. He has been collaborating with electro-dance musician Dan Deacon for years; both are members of the Baltimore arts collective WHAM CITY. Last summer they toured their performative music and video work, Ultimate Reality (www.youtube.com/jimmyjoeroche), throughout America and Canada, and will perform it in early July at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Roche has worked on and/or appeared in director Jonathan Demme’s films The Manchurian Candidate, Heart of Gold, and the upcoming Rachael Getting Married.