Jaya Howey

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Jaya Howey

Work from “Note to Self” at Bureau, New York.

“Bureau is pleased to announce Note to Self, Jaya Howey’s first exhibition with the gallery. Howey’s exhibition includes three new bodies of work, two modes of painting: narratives and respites, and the ceramic frame works. Howey’snarratives establish an emotionally fraught thread through the use of a rudimentary pictographic code. The respitesfeature groupings of similar symbolic icons, their communicatory function confused through layering and silhouetting. The frame works are cast ceramic picture frames that can either be attached to the paintings or left to function as distinct objects in space. Through previous bodies of work, Howey has explored how a subject can be fractured by the painterly gesture; his latest work continues this investigation resolving in a concise visual style. The new compositions push the potential of the flat, white stretched canvas as a semiotic field.

The paintings in Note to Self are composed in Adobe Illustrator and parody the language of layout which dominates our contemporary visual field. The drawn forms refer to Lettrist metagraphics and manga illustration. The compositions are arranged on screen and painted using a cut vinyl mask. An oil paint called Torrit Grey is applied with clean lines and contours that suggest the intimate point or colored-in field drawn by a pencil. The works imply the look of a doodle, laying the artist’s subconscious open for analysis.

The rebus-like narratives unfold with a view into the artist’s anxiety navigating the social context of the art world. In stick figure scenes we see a nervous artist with cartoon hands grasping a paintbrush or fumbling for a wine glass. Alongside these characters are symbols of the environs and consumables of the artist: both cliché and quotidian. In one work we see an anguished young man carving a peace-sign into his arm while an ink jet printer cranks out pages of simple shapes. The young man is not consoled by the cheery bubble tea menu above him, as the punch card from a time clock looms. The humorous, self-deprecating narratives are contrasted by the more densely abstract, patterned, silhouette works, the respites. In these forests of signs, layered shapes replicate and morph, allowing for more open interpretations. Socks, bunches of grapes and melting clocks fan out amidst abstract shapes resembling bunting, large drips and schematized script. These works create a dense scuffle of shadowy icons resisting clear identification, thus allowing the viewer to rest on an imaginative formal rhythm rather than decoding a narrative.

While the paintings play among the artist’s subconscious obsessions and allusions, the exhibition is buttressed by considered formal gestures. Howey’s chosen anti- palette of Torrit Grey is an oil paint produced yearly at Gamblin Artist Colors. Gamblin combines all the pigment dust from the factory’s air filtration system and uses this mixture as a pigmentary base. Each run of Torrit Grey is unique in its chromatic combination and because it cannot promise consistency, it cannot be sold, and is given away. The slight color variation throughout the exhibition is a by- product of this production method. The ceramic frame fragments form a figurative framework for the show. The ceramic shells have a material fragility that allude to a paradox: that any defensive mechanism is ultimately the most fragile aspect of a work. These protective shields, constructed out of brittle clay, reinforce the works’ willful vulnerability.” – Bureau

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