Opening on Thursday, March 7, 2024 from 6 to 8 pm
Almine Rech New York, Upper East Side is pleased to present Mara, Jess Valice's first solo exhibition with the gallery, on view from March 7 to April 20, 2024.
On the face of things, stoicism can look a lot like exhaustion. In fact, fatigue, with all its causes and variations, may be our modern-day version of stoicism. Or so we may surmise from spending time with Jess Valice’s portraits: the straight-ahead stare of large hooded eyes, the small tightly-closed mouths, and the massive yet contorted solidity of her figures convey both determination and resignation, poise and detachment. These figures remain resolutely silent in the face of any pain we may imagine them suffering—and we know, everybody hurts.
Over the past few years, during which time the self-taught painter has developed a distinctive stylistic consistency, Valice has homed in on what she’s called a vacancy of expression that is capacious enough to be a screen for projection and an ocean in which to get lost in thought. She depicts a kind of dazed waking dream state. Her subjects gaze assertively at us, connecting directly while embodying an essential aloneness and distance, perhaps a melancholy. Having come to painting from the field of biopsychology (also known as behavioral neuroscience, or the study of how the brain and nervous system determine behavior), Valice is drawn to representations of psychological opacity and blockage, replete with all the ineffable richness and complexity buried inside each person’s remote unknowability: “There is this overwhelming sense of fatigue that I think is typifying our generation, the weight of a spectrum of emotional responses that digital space provokes in us every day… It’s all so complex—this is where the science and melancholia come in—the recognition of this blankness as a widespread response. It’s too much to feel.” Rather than a symptom of the organism’s failure, numbness is a psychological coping mechanism, a refuge, a recuperative state, and unlikely source of strength.
— Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, curator and writer