Jesse Mockrin’s luminous oil paintings extract details from European Old Master paintings, reformulating and recontextualizing cultural narratives and art historical motifs to speak to the present. For Mockrin, these paintings and stories function as an entry point into an ongoing conversation about images, time, appropriation, and gender constructs. As the artist notes, “In referencing art history in my work, I am particularly interested in the ever-evolving meaning attached to images, how they transform over time and across culture, and how the act of bringing them into our present context expands their resonance now.”
Mockrin employs strategies of fragmentation, enlargement, and recombination to recompose familiar scenes from the biblical and mythological canon. The artist imbues these tableaus with new layers of significance and subverts established compositional points of emphasis. Mockrin’s deliberate embrace of ambiguity further complicates the reading of this recognizable source material. At turns obscuring and revealing essentializing details or identifying features, Mockrin depicts her subjects with an exaggerated androgyny. This rejection of the hypermasculine and hyperfeminine ideals of beauty presented in Western art history is a gesture that destabilizes the aesthetic hierarchy of the male gaze, insisting instead on multiplicities of interpretation, desire and desirability.
The human body–two figures locked in a dramatic embrace that could be amorous or combative, a torso riddled with arrows, or hands reaching inwards from the edge of a frame–is a central subject for Mockrin, and one that her medium is particularly suited to. The artist’s paintings are characterized by a tightly controlled surface and a sense of internal light that seems to diffuse from within the bodily forms to their smooth edges. Mockrin’s figures are eerily bloodless, with polished complexions that recall stone or plaster rather than the pumping blood and viscera contained by human flesh. Sumptuously rendered folds of fabric are given as much exquisite attention as anatomy in motion, often set against a stygian velveted nonspace that reads as boundless.
Mockrin often works in a diptych or triptych format, with painted bodies truncated by the edge of one frame extending into the composition of another. These visual pauses cast the artist’s figures into a realm within which the boundaries of time, gender, and the body dissolve, transforming her subjects into hybrid sites of layered meaning. As Mockrin observes of this compositional arrangement, “While cropping can be an act of violation of the borders of the body, the diptych or triptych allows for the building of new bodies across the divide between panels.” The space between the multiple panels engenders an active viewing experience, as the viewer imagines the images both together and apart, as well as what is veiled or obscured in between.
Jesse Mockrin (b. 1981, Silver Spring, MD) has had solo exhibitions at Night Gallery, Los Angeles; Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York; and Galerie Perrotin, Seoul. Her work is currently on view in the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, and she has been featured in group presentations at James Cohan, New York; Friends Indeed, San Francisco; SPURS Gallery, Beijing; and Almine Rech, Brussels, among others. Her work belongs in the permanent collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; Rubell Collection, Miami; Xiao Museum, Rizhao, China; Aurora Museum, Shanghai, China; KRC Collection, Voorschoten; and Hans-Joachim and Gisa Sander Foundation, Darmstadt. Mockrin lives and works in Los Angeles.