In Jackie Gendel’s portraits, the anonymity of a face stands front and center. The idea that a portrait is less about individual identity and more about a vehicle to express process is key to the artist’s aesthetic. At first take, these works on paper are deceptively simple: heads are compositionally centered either in profile or in the standard dictates of portraiture, and then highlighted by painterly background applications. Some works have intentional smudge marks that partially obliterate the subject to further underscore the idea that expression is the emblem of flux.
Gendel’s portraiture strays from convention towards artistic improvisation. The underlying subject of these monotypes isn’t the central figure but rather the evanescent quality of how an image is created—ink brushed on a plate surface, a shadow printed near the chin, select hand-worked areas that define revisions. In some of these monotypes, Gendel counter-proofed the residue left on a plate, allowing faded ghost imagery to imbue a mysterious dynamic lurking within a composition.
Given the long, venerated history of portraiture and the way artists continue to resuscitate and push forward the genre in order to advance their own work, Gendel too has taken off along this path with a smart and sensuous riff evident here in these unique works on paper.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Girl’s Club Collection; Progressive Art Collection (US)