I Am Not A Magician
In one indelible scene from Pasolini's Il Decameron (1971), which has provided Jeni Spota a broad framework for her paintings since 2006, Giotto (played by Pasolini) awakens from a vision in which the Virgin Mother is depicted on a hillside flanked by a choir of angels. Below saints and worshippers are spared as the damned are flayed by demons and dangled naked by their feet. This image is meant to serve as the inspiration for his fresco, the Last Judgement, in the Arena Chapel. As his painting is finally completed, Giotto questions, “Why create a work of art when dreaming about it is so much sweeter?”
For the works in this exhibition, Spota composes dense and scrambled allegories that make sometimes pointed, sometimes sidelong allusions to the realms of faith, magic, and dreams. Spota utilizes familiar and expanding iconographies to develop dualities within her paintings as a means to explore truth and illusion through an evolving vocabulary.
For instance, Upon My Arrival (2013), depicts a crowd of standing figures gazing back at the viewer. The artist creates a dualistic experience where a near shamanic vision of the afterlife contends with the inherent theatricality of the image. Spota develops this idea further in works like He Wanted to Be A Hero (2012). Here the connection to magic takes a more literal approach where an illusionist's cast-off props become assemblage material and take on a talismanic aura. I Am Not A Magician (2012) utilizes Pasolini's interpretation of Giotto's Last Judgement as a framework on which Spota plays with themes of both Biblical and personal revelation. Swarms of figures rendered in daubs of oil paint create heaving and frenzied surfaces of iconographic religious mainstays. Figures are fragmented and collaged with found objects to form complex narratives and ecstatic visions. Throughout her paintings, Spota's sleight of hand conjures a dreamlike carnival of humanity where the content is simultaneously revealed and concealed.
Jeni Spota lives and works in New York. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Solo Exhibitions include: Giotto's Dream, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL and Don't Tread on Me, The Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA. Spota has recently participated in Group Exhibitions at Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, Josh Lilley, London, Rhona Hoffman, Chicago, Luxembourg & Dayan, New York, Venus Over Manhattan, New York, Santa Barbara Art Museum, Santa Barbara, CA, and Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, among others.