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.