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Jessica Diamond

21 February – 29 April 2001

Jessica Diamond is a New York artist who for over a decade has been painting directly on the walls of museums and galleries. These wall paintings are generally made from small, integral paintings on paper which are projected onto the walls and then traced. The tracings guide the reproduction of the imagery on another scale. The gestural spontaneity of the original small paintings undergoes translation through this reproductive procedure. Once magnified, one is exceptionally aware of the boundaries of the shapes and of the wobble of their contours. Accordingly, although her wall paintings are graphically bold and aggressively assertive, they also have a sensitive and ephemeral presence.

Among the many compelling qualities of Diamond's paintings is how they associate things small and large and how their bold shapes that verge on being iconic signs void themselves. By virtue of figure/ground ambiguities her iconic figures dissolve into natural forms and spatial expanses of indeterminate scale. Concrete scale is preserved via the paintings' relation to the architecture and to the surrounding gallery space and yet, through their figural elusiveness, the immaterial dimension of her art affirms itself.

Diamond's prior work from the early '90s was blatantly critical of the capitalist/consumerist value system. Her recent work is also strongly subversive but on a more subtle, profound and effective level. As her art developed, manifest critique was transformed into an esoteric, feminist poetics of jouissance. Esoteric knowledge is intrinsically erotic and eros has in fact always been the source of her imagination.

Diamond's art passed through a period of intense involvement with Kusama's work. In the work of both these artists passion takes precedence over reason. Both formulated their practices in direct contention with rather than in marginalised opposition to identifiably male art practices.

A body of work presented in 1999 was titled Eros (Rain): The Storms and consisted of cloud imagery that morphed into male/female erogenous body parts. A short related text explains that this imagery was "inspired by a 19th Century Taoist weather manual where 'the bursting of clouds and rain' acts as a metaphor for orgasm; sexual intercourse was believed to produce actual rainfall." One wonders whether to dismiss this belief as naive superstition or to embrace its poetry, which exerts a tremendous appeal through its natural reasoning through imagery, an imaginative capacity we have definitely lost. By comparison, the normal discourse through which we view and relate to world seems deficient.

Diamond's colour is glamorous and tough. Her dual colour is not exactly bipolar but is charged and attracts and repels. Her sensuous fields of colour are equally spacious and impenetrable. Modulations of colour are almost nonexistent. Darkness and light, image and void bound together in one full burst.

This exhibition is presented with the assistance ofThe Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at]