CHARLIE SMITH london is pleased to announce James Jessop’s first one person show with the gallery. The exhibition will feature three large paintings, a salon wall of smaller works and Bomb Chaser, a new documentary that follows Jessop touring the Bronx to visit the locations that he paints with one of his 1970’s graffiti heroes Blade, and Martha Cooper, photographer for the seminal urban art book Subway Art (Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, 1984).
The title Bomb Chaser refers to Jessop’s life long love affair with graffiti. Like many others of his generation, Jessop was first turned onto graffiti by Henry Chalfant and Cooper’s afore mentioned Subway Art. Presented with the book for his birthday in 1986 Jessop never looked back. Initially making drawings from Subway Art he slowly learned the language of the street before taking in formal training at the Royal College of Art; solo shows in Copenhagen, Sao Paulo and London including at the now legendary Rockwell Project; group shows globally including The Saatchi Gallery’s New Blood; and adding the occasional bit of colour to city streets globally.
In this exhibition, 25 years later, Jessop has turned full circle and returned to the same source. Two monumental paintings derive from his visit to New York City. Jessop and Cooper found the location at St Ann St where she originally shot Midg 1983 passing over St. Ann Street, South Bronx and created a new set up for the 21st century. Using the original image from 1983 for one painting and then the new 2010 image for the other, we are treated to Midg’s whole car blaze in one and then the shiny clean surface of a modern New York subway train in the other. The war between the writers and New York’s authorities had been won and the result is a sanitised version of a once visually vibrant urban environment.
Technically Jessop combines the language of graffiti with those of fine art painting and spoof horror comics and B-movie posters. As well as drawing on painters such as Van Gogh and Peter Doig, the latter by whom he was taught at the RCA, Jessop under-paints using customised marker pens that have been adapted to make unique marks before filling in with acrylic and oil. These pens have been used, kept, repaired and refuelled in cities across the world including Barcelona, New York City, Rome, Turin, Sao Paulo and Montpellier. Painterly techniques and elements from historical painting are then transcribed into areas of his compositions along with appropriations of 1950’s pulp fiction. The result is an distinctive collision of rich visual idioms drawn from high, popular and underground cultures.