Jaqueline Cedar was born in Los Angeles, CA and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. In 2009 she received an MFA in painting from Columbia University. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston (2016) and 106 Green Gallery, Brooklyn (2014). She has also been included in exhibitions at Lesley Heller Workspace (2016), BAM (2015), DUTTON Gallery (2015), and Brian Morris Gallery (2015). Press includes Huffington Post, New American Paintings, and The Boston Globe.
My paintings depict life-size figures interacting amidst abstract fields of shape and color. Unsure of their surroundings, these figures make rote attempts to engage one another both physically and psychologically as their gestures are echoed and amplified by their environment. They have strong inclinations toward action yet limited mobility. They find themselves absorbed by their own thoughts and yet compelled to engage with their surroundings. They are filled with a sense of impending doom and still uncertain of their purpose. As these figures acknowledge the absurdity of their circumstances they respond distinctly with behaviors that reflect their will and needs. Some are distracted by the task at hand. Some ask questions and observe closely. Some assess the current conditions and look for a way out.
The paintings address such issues as self-awareness, control, and immobility, staging a potential but arrested movement toward knowledge or engagement. By arranging figures as armatures for hanging line and color, my paintings construct scenarios in which subjects behave both as backdrops and participants, observers and actors. Adjacent structures of shape and value at once form and collapse, advancing an overall sensation of motion, depth, and atmosphere.
Hi Jaqueline! Can you give us some insight into your process? Do you plan your compositions beforehand or do you work intuitively?
I work in both modes. For a long time I resisted making any plans prior to beginning larger works. I felt little interest in reiterating an image that already existed in the world. However, recently I've begun integrating drawing into my practice in a more routine way, and using drawings as references for paintings has afforded a great deal of freedom and opportunity for intuitive choices in the larger work. I take pleasure in working responsively and discovering and inventing in-process, and it seems the more I plan compositionally/structurally, the easier it is for me to be open to change/experimentation in the way of paint application, color, and material. If the drawing exists in a concrete way, I can play more with the rest. The work (drawings and paintings alike) always begins with the figure. I start with gesture and movement and the spaces/environments are often built in response to these postures/physical relationships.
A stylized figure appears frequently in all of your work, whether pen-and-ink, works on paper, or paintings. When did this figure appear in your work? Can you tell us more about them?
At a certain point I decided I wanted to feel less indebted to a photographic reference point. I had been working primarily from my imagination but still culling photographs and images to fit ideas I was trying to render in paint—often not quite physically attainable. I began drawing as a way to work out these images more quickly sans-photo and was interested in this question of how to most efficiently render gesture and expression. The mannered figures came out of a desire to pare down. I was trying to find the least number of lines necessary to conjure a mood/feeling/posture/action. I also now feel as though there is a comic element involved in these more caricature-like renderings of a human form. Certain exaggerations lend themselves toward humor or the absurd. I think the simplicity of line can lighten the weight of content that otherwise might feel burdened by a sense of disquiet or longing. There's gravity/levity. High/low.
Do the ink drawings inform the paintings?
I am constantly working on the ink drawings. Some are more developed ideas and some are just fragments. I pull from these drawings as I'm getting going with the larger paintings but the initial images often change course in translation.
What is a typical day like for you?
A big part of my practice has always been viewing, researching, and teaching from art objects. I often spend mornings teaching at MoMA or the Whitney and afternoons and weekends in the studio. In the summer I break up the day with a swim. The California girl in me can't stay away from the water when it's warm out. In the winter I fill gaps with films, plays, and books (mostly fiction).
Do you feel like it is necessary to get into a particular headspace when in the studio? If so how do you get there?
Quiet is a big thing for me. Needing to be in a place where I can block out any external distractions. Painting for me is an incredibly solitary practice but I take great comfort in that kind of space. Lately I've felt more interest in collaborating in terms of creating content and context in relation to other artists/spaces, but the physical work of making/building still happens independently. Usually finding the right headspace just means waiting until everyone's asleep and I'm left with fewer pulls and less noise.
What are the most important components of your studio?
At the moment—floor space, light, fabric scissors, and a staple gun. Oh and I suppose a camera as well—photographing work in progress has been super helpful in terms of processing/pushing ideas along. I'm really interested in all of the iterations that happen on the way to a finished object and documenting those changes gives me a chance to make those transitional moments more permanent, even if just to serve as a record.
What do you listen to while you work? Is this an important part of your practice?
Mostly I prefer not to listen to anything. Sounds that involve distinct rhythms or beats really effect the pace at which I work and I prefer to allow for the work to drive that structure. Although I have to say, I love talking on the phone while I work. I'm full of contradictions! But maybe I can handle that kind of noise because there's no static rhythm involved? Sometimes just a faint verbal distraction can help to pull things into focus visually. Depends on the day.
What are some of the artists that you look at the most often or most recently?
Lately I feel totally oversaturated by images. There's so much good work out there. Artists I always go back to are Balthus, Bourgeois, Klee, Schlemmer. I also spend a lot of time watching films and theatrical productions—obvious folks like Lynch and Bergman, Ozon.
Has there ever been a book/essay/poem/film/etc that totally changed or influenced you? What are you reading right now?
All the time. But not typically one whole book or an entire performance. It's more often moments within a scene, or a passage or phrase. Right now I'm reading Dostoyevsky and getting ready to work on another collaboration with my father, Larry Cedar, who's planning a one-man production with selections from his writing. I'm really excited to think through how to develop an environment/atmosphere that measures the content of this work.
Any advice to recent grads who are interested in getting their work out there and exhibiting?
Make your work. Go see lots of work. Support other artists and programs you love.
Any advice from your past that has stuck with you or helped you?
I know this sounds a tad hokey —but one of my favorite professors from my undergraduate years at UCLA always told me to let the work tell you what to do. "It's not personal," he would say, which always helped me to move forward when I felt stuck in the studio. Allowing for the formal properties of the work to speak to you and give you direction can be quite freeing.
What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?
I feel like the best experiences I've had looking at art recently have been in artists' studios. It's been fantastic to be able to enter such intimate/immersive spaces and have a dialogue with artists amidst their work. One of the things I've loved most about living in New York is that so many artists are in-reach and willing/interested in having conversations—even strangers. Thinking about curating lately has pushed me out of my studio and I feel really inspired by the work I'm seeing. I just visited Genesis Belanger and Elisa Soliven in preparation for the Fantastic Plastic show I'm organizing at CRUSH CURATORIAL. There are always so many exhibitions I'd like to see! Feels like there's never enough time. But right now I'm looking forward to catching Ridley Howard's new paintings at Marinaro Gallery and Past Skin at MoMA PS1.
What is your relationship with social media? Do you have a favorite or least-favorite platform?
I get into a real Instagram spiral every now and again. I'm just constantly amazed by how much engaging work exists and how easy it is to connect with other artists in such a fluid way. Certainly not the only way to look at and share content but it definitely keeps me on my toes and gives me a platform for sharing upcoming projects and work in-process.
The exhibition you mentioned, Fantastic Plastic, which you curated in collaboration with Karen Flatow at CRUSH CURATORIAL, opens on May 25th in the gallery's Chelsea location. Congrats! Can you tell us a bit more about the show?
So excited to have the opportunity to curate this exhibition. Karen Flatow, the founder of CRUSH CURATORIAL and a super smart artist in her own right, has been incredibly generous in offering her studio as a space/platform for emerging artists to test out new ideas and share their methods/ways of practicing work in her space. I've organized an exhibition of seven artists, including myself, all engaged with the body in both absurd and melancholic modes. Each of the works in the show strike comic and somber chords. They are formally and materially diverse and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to create a context within which their proximity might generate connections and stimulate conversation.
When did you become interested in curating exhibitions? Can you tell us a bit about your experience so far? When did you curate your first show?
I started organizing exhibitions as an undergraduate at UCLA. I've always enjoyed researching and looking at a wide range of objects/artworks. This process informs my studio work and helps me to create a wider context for making and responding to art. I see teaching as a form of curating as well—thinking through how to make visual/conceptual connections throughout history and amongst a group of artists. Anyhow, I find the process incredibly stimulating intellectually and creatively and I hope to have opportunities to continue to develop this end of my practice in a more rigorous way in years to come.
Can you talk a bit about the importance of artist-run projects?
It's such a pleasure to be able to work within an artist-run space. More often than not I've found that these kinds of spaces allow makers the most freedom/opportunity to experiment and play in a totally unhinged capacity. There is often less pressure with regard to sales and more interest in creating space for work that might not fit into a more commercial context. Most of the galleries I've shown with over the years have been smaller spaces that have encouraged this kind of openness to process.
You exhibited with CRUSH in 2016, in a solo exhibition that included sculptures and wall paintings. Can you talk a bit about that exhibition and working in multiple media? Was this a new direction for you?
Yes I was totally inspired by that opportunity. Karen offered me the time and space necessary to work out my ideas with a two-week install period and that scenario alone sparked a whole new body of paintings and sculptures. I had been making similar work in my studio independently prior to the exhibit but hadn't yet had the opportunity to build an environment around these works and directly in response to them.
How important is it for artists to live in or at least maintain a footprint in New York?
I feel both stimulated and beat up by the city on a regular basis. Living here is a constant hustle but I find the lifestyle incredibly rewarding. The sheer amount of rigorous art and dialogue that exists here on a daily basis is overwhelming and invigorating. I feel lucky to be surrounded by a robust group of artists, critics, makers, thinkers. I know that can and does happen in other places, but I've grown quite attached to the density that exists here. The pace also suits me well. It's definitely a place where people make things happen. The work ethic is strong. But location is so personal. There's no one way. And I have serious LA envy every winter. Can't beat that weather.
You have been published and received a lot of press in the past few years, any advice for up and coming artists? How do you find opportunities?
Talk to everyone. Be nice. Ask for what you want.
Do you have any other news, shows, residencies or projects coming up?
I'm about to ship some large paintings and sculptures to Indianapolis for a solo show at Indiana University. I'll be heading there for two weeks in June to make a wall painting on-site. I'm pretty stoked about the exhibit. I'm looking forward to responding to a new context and getting to know a new community of artists.
Thanks so much for sharing your work and talking with us!
To find out more about Jaqueline and her work, check our her website.