One of my favorite categories of books is ART BOOKS. I'm poor (so I can't afford to buy many original works of art,) and I live in a part of the country where most of the galleries and museums that are within 40 miles in any direction are focused on things like "Logging History" and lots of watercolors of flowers and beach scenes. (There are some good places to visit in Portland, Oregon, but that's close to an hour drive away.) Because of the lack of access to interesting artwork in my area, I started collecting ART BOOKS (or checking them out from the library) so I can at least KIND OF see what the real weirdos (my people) like to paint. I have dozens of these books now, particularly works published by Taschen, who do a good job of presenting beautiful books with solid biographical essays. Good stuff! Well, this review is for a book that I think was independently published, as it's not available on Amazon, but I'm pretty sure you can still get the book from Jesse Reno himself! Art books are cool, in general, but THIS book is brilliant!
This review was originally published 31 Mar. 2017 at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop, and I'm pleased to be archiving it, forever, here on the Steem blockchain. AND, I hope people who enjoy this type of art will look up Jesse Reno and give his work some love! And, with that stuff said, let's get to the review:
“Read a Damn Book – 018: We Must Remain Focused When Waiting for Thunder”
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Jesse Reno – We Must Remain Focused When Waiting for Thunder (2008)
I first discovered the artwork of Jesse Reno (who, last I heard, lives in Portland, Oregon) at The Lunar Boy Gallery in Astoria, Oregon, which was my favorite gallery, EVER, and therefore had to close. Anyway, my wife and I drug the kids into this cool gallery near the coast, coincidentally during an exhibition of Reno’s paintings. We were immediately struck by how expressive and creepy these paintings were, and were very pleased to find a book of Reno’s work right there in the gallery, so we scooped it up that instant.
The images in this book have a Native American aesthetic, but haunted, corrupted, and dipped in extract of Basquiat, with a side order of Cy Twombly sauce for spice. Most of the paintings have a central image that is part animal, part human, part ghost, and/or part plant, with extra limbs, multiple faces, arms that end in snakes, horns, or some other chimerical morphology. Reno uses acrylics, oil pastels, pencil, and collage bits, usually on a wood support, to create a multi-layered, masterfully collaged (almost quilted, at times) look, and the creatures in the paintings ALSO have this same multi-layered feel: part Native American / part modern hipster / part Nature / part spirit world.
In addition to the central creatures, there are also many repeated symbols peppered throughout the works: the bird, the sun (sometimes fractured in two), flowers, snakes, squiggles, stars, and written words that both complicate and compliment the images. The titles for the paintings (sometimes scrawled into the images themselves) add to the feeling of each piece, creating a magical incantation, and a hypnotic, haunted feel. That’s probably the best word for all of this work, even the images that are smiling or swimming in light colors: haunted.
I’m willing to admit that I’ve stolen a lot from Reno in my own artwork (although I’d never pretend to having the depth or complexity of what he accomplishes.) If you are a fan of modern artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, or Robert Rauschenberg, or if you like your Native American art with a touch of the grotesque and bizarre, then a book by Jesse Reno might just be the thing for you!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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