April 15, 2024

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Juxtapoz Magazine – Arrhythmia: Jess Valice @ Stems Gallery, Paris

4 min read

The heart is a cruel magician. It tricks us into believing rhythm is a universal law. Rivers of blood flow by our veins at a conductor’s pace. Wind sails in and out of our lungs with an orchestra’s precision. We nod our head to the beat. What a beloved song, what a farce. Outlined as the abnormality of the heart’s rhythm, arrhythmia is not a failure but relatively an inconvenient reality. It is the organ exposed for what it actually is—a ticking time bomb.

In a yr used frightened and fascinated by her own arrhythmia, Jess(ica) Valice began the to start with of the 9 will work that comprise this exhibition with the triptych. A person, inspired by her late father, dissembles a drum kit, and engages in a strange performance. As an alternative of in-sync, he performs every single piece of the established, it seems, 1 defeat at a time. This is a sonic portrayal of the crack-up of a 1-person band. It is taking place at lightspeed and gradual motion. His talent is the two frayed and exacting, lazy and ingenious. Behold a musician framed at his agonizing peak and his calming trough. Is this trio of glimpses, potentially, a type of musical ellipsis on the back of a funeral memento card? Or, in its place, the very first number of delicate notes that turned the heartbeat of the artist herself? Valice’s trademark faces—tight-lipped and unflinching—reveal very little. This time, the outsized ears look considerably less a stylistic callback to past operate, and far more needed as products. Not simply to bask in this limping instrumentation but to facial area the boos and applause and issues from the audience.

When the charade of the heart has been uncovered, what stays are the clues lurking in the faces and figures powering the curtain. What do they expose? May possibly they know a thing we really don’t about how to have on dwelling with explosives trapped in our chests?

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Based in Los Angeles, Valice was born in 1996 and examined neuroscience ahead of turning out to be a expert painter. Self-taught, her prior get the job done has focused broadly on the human ailment. Arrhythmia, her 2023 Stems Gallery Exhibition in Paris, narrows its awareness to where by that issue starts and what comes about when the origin tale is interrupted. Listed here, Valice mostly drifts away from her massive-eared past and in direction of total figured, dynamic scenes wherever a cinematic universe of characters and prospects confronts our bare fragility.

The titular piece, like substantially of Valice’s work, commenced as an act of self-portraiture. Curiously absent is her actual-life zipper scar. Picking out to omit these types of an apparent nod to heart issues only to swap in the instrument most associated with identifying them leaves us with still much more to ponder. When does a stethoscope stop to be a set of headphones for a doctor’s cardiac critique and when does it become a satisfaction instrument? Or a noose? And did Valice intentionally condition it into a damaged infinity image? If so, she may well have invented the ideal punctuation mark to affix at the summary of the calendar year-lengthy creative pursuit fenced within this exhibition.

Taken together, the assortment might be reported to give an assemblage of peephole glimpses into what transpires when we try to revoke the heart’s license to fool us. To look at a single operate separately is to be gifted a thoroughly curated puzzle box. Each individual of these paintings, in Valice’s subtle disregard for subtlety, calls for additional assembly and we oblige.

Look at the brutal humanity of the only perform the place the figures are concealed. Valice imposes the emotive paradoxes usually reserved for her androgynous faces onto the sensual—perhaps vaginal—folds of a tablecloth, the plumpness of a still-to-be-squeezed lemon, and the leathery shine of 4 loafers. Here, Valice conjures nudity without the need of a flash of human skin. By interrupting the rhythm and regularity of her most well-liked forms, the artist manages to mimic—or mock—the heart’s proclivity to transform tempo. The exhibition results in being her very own manufacturer of aesthetic arrhythmia. Think about that these are not two embarrassed businessmen hiding at a work luncheon—nor two youthful sisters applying their father’s do the job attire as a diversion from mom—but the unpleasant palpitations by themselves, wrangled into human kind, and shamed at a get together for demonstrating up overdressed and uninvited. Or could possibly the table be the coronary heart by itself and somewhere concealed behind the tablecloth—the curtain—sits the drummer, still participating in his syrupy tune?

Ambiguity can be an adventure—a detective assignment to find what’s going on in a portray. It can also be torture—the unexpected, unexplained demise of a parent. Valice’s canvases at the moment seize damaged-hearted moments and nevertheless include, nearly impossibly, all the parts necessary to make them complete.

What if the coronary heart is not playing tips immediately after all? Arrhythmia is a lot more than an explosion in gradual motion. It is an genuine invitation to an unannounced celebration. It is a celebration of the irregular, the unnatural, and the irregular. Possibly the heart is also a musician, and that damaged melody is just the jagged echo of the oldest, truest relatives track. —Alex Dwyer

Arrhythmia: Jess Valice @ Stems Gallery, Paris is on view by means of March 11, 2023

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