Jessica Hess, "Less is More" Solo Show at Hashimoto Contemporary San Francisco

Jessica Hess opens her solo-show at Hashimoto Contemporary tonight titled “Less is More”. It’s a new development from her previous exhibition “More is More” back in 2015. I had a chance to ask her few questions about it. In this interview, Jessica reveals her fascination with derelict spaces, her process and her favorite piece from this show. Read on.

Interview and photos by Mark Changco.
Art by Jessica Hess.
Feature Photo by Shaun Roberts.

Buff 'n Stuff, Oil on Canvas, 20" x 22"

Tell us about “Less is More”. What inspired you to arrive to this title?

The popular phrase “Less Is More” stems from a Robert Browning poem from the 19th century expressing the idea that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. In contrast with my previous work, my new works are minimal with limited color palettes and straightforward, clean geometry. I’ve been planning “Less is More” for some time. Over the years I had been documenting and stashing away these simpler subjects, ones that never quite fit into previous shows, they finally added up to become “Less Is More”. Admittedly it was difficult for me to really pare things down. To some viewers the show will seem quite complex. But for me, within the context of the larger history of my artwork, it shows amazing restraint.

Why did you choose to go to this route of painting abandoned derelict places? Would you please share us your process, particularly for this show?

I am attracted primarily to utilitarian buildings where engineering takes precedence over aesthetics. Many of my subjects are vacant or disused, and beautiful in these states of neglect. Although the paintings are devoid of human life, the structures and sites I paint bear witness to a human presence and the dynamic nature of the urban environment. Their surfaces reflect the visual call and response of graffiti and buff, as well as the slower process of weathering and deterioration.

North Adams, Oil on Canvas, 42" x 36"

Each painting begins with an urban hunting trip and my camera. I usually stumble onto my subjects by chance. It is rare that I go out of my way to plan a trip to a specific location. It’s very important to note that every place I paint has been explored by me personally. I never work from other photographers’ images. My paintings are informed by my experience of seeing a place in person. Photo reference is a handy tool but it hardly begins to capture the real feel of a place. After shooting anywhere from say… 5 to 100 images in, on, and around a subject, I’ll head home, set aside my digital camera, and begin my very old-school approach to composing a painting.

After printing the essential photographs I make collages with the 4″x6″ photos cut and taped together. I then paint into these reference collages and manipulate them further by making notes, color changes, and perspective corrections. My subjects change quite a bit from reality, as I am a hyper-realist, not a photo-realist. My images are better than reality. They are enhanced, cleaned up, and stripped of humans, cars, and garbage. Colors get pushed to a candy-like saturation. I change the weather, time of day, sometimes entire seasons to suit the subject.

How is this show different from your previous ones?

“Less is More” is the follow up to my 2015 solo exhibition at Hashimoto Contemporary, “More is More”, which was all about large, complex, brightly colored, busy subjects all soaked in graffiti and street art. Where “More Is More” was about saturation and overkill, “Less Is More” explores beauty in simplicity. With my new body of work, I’d like to show that my paintings are not reliant solely on street art and graffiti, they show the part of me that appreciates minimalism. That and I think buff is both beautiful and hilarious.

MUNI Pier, Oil on Canvas, 66" x 60"

What will be your favorite piece of the show? Why?

Increasingly, I am interested in the construction and final appearance of my photo collages. I have begun to make paintings of these collages rather than working from them as mere reference. As a result, some of the new works have a fractured, collage-like appearance. This is my attempt at breaking up my realist art practice and taking some slow and informed steps toward abstracting my subjects. With my more straightforward representational works I had begun to feel like I was on autopilot in studio. The fractured paintings like “MUNI Pier” for example, challenged me more. I suppose that makes it my favorite painting from “Less Is More”.

TL Corner, Oil on Canvas, 18" x 16"

“Less is More” will have an opening reception today Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 6PM. And the show will run ’til the 23rd of September.

To find out more about available works contact:

Hashimoto Contemporary
804 Sutter St,
San Francisco, CA 94109
+1 (415) 655-9265

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