Online rosary

Jameson Green will not apologize for his conflicting paintings. Collectors love it for it

Crucifixion. Cannibalism. Decapitation. A noose hanging from a tree. Jameson Green’s current exhibition at the Derek Eller Gallery contains enough violent imagery to send a wandering nun to her rosary. Abraham raises a knife to slit his son’s neck. Jesus collapses on the cross wearing a crown of thorns as gray as his face. The heads of the Three Kings are represented stuck on trees driven with nails.

Each of these paintings, exhibited in “With Regards, Without Regardsuntil October 8, was sold to members of a waiting list of more than 300 collectors clamoring for the work of the 30-year-old artist. His gallery claimed that the average price of a green painting quadrupled in just two years, from around $7,500 to nearly $30,000. Some paintings have been sold for up to $75,000. Private collectors are eager to buy, competing with cultural institutions like the Dallas Museum of Art and Pérez Art Museum Miami, which have already acquired his work. The numbers are almost certain to continue to rise.

Green would rather avoid thinking about money, even though it gives him the privilege to focus on his art. Last October, he moved from a studio in the South Bronx to a larger space in Long Island City where his canvases grew to over 14 feet wide.

“I would love to push the boundaries of painting,” said the 30-year-old artist, who graduated with an MFA from Hunter College just three years ago after studying with teachers like Juan Sanchez. He was struggling to finish his paintings at the time, so another teacher, Drew Beattie, gave him an ultimatum: Work faster than your inner critic or slow down.

Jameson Green, The world is yours Lil N*gga (2022). Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

He leaned into frustration, producing autobiographical paintings that combined art historical references to Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Kokoschka and Philip Guston with the burned memories of a difficult childhood and his personal experiences with racism. .

Green is a black man who frequently includes symbols of racism in his paintings, such as a klanman’s balaclava and a cartoon caricature of a dark-skinned boy with thick lips. These elements, he says, are “a depiction of corruption in the pursuit of power, racial division, bigotry and, through these things, personal suffering”, which can make the paintings difficult to look at. In one, a boy sits under a noose while painting a portrait of a man’s severed head.

Green’s embrace of such difficult material despite the risk of backlash defined him as someone willing to expose his own vulnerabilities and contradictions. It’s a philosophy he gleaned from the artist Robert Crumbwhose comics Green often read as a child at the New Haven Public Library in Connecticut.

Green’s mother was a music teacher who encouraged his creative pursuits and enrolled him in a special program called Educational Center for the Arts. He attended in class in the afternoon, surrounded by mostly white peers; it was a stark contrast, he said, to the public high school where he spent his mornings among black students. Living between these worlds taught Green how to navigate difficult conversations about race.

Jameson Green, You Reach It, You Reach It (2022).  Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

Jameson Green, You reach it, you reach it (2022). Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

“I don’t think the paintings need to apologize for anything,” Green said. “I’m going to be honest, even if it means saying something that makes people feel uncomfortable.”

Collectors find his candor exhilarating.

“It’s his way of painting,” said Beth Rudin DeWoody, a Whitney Museum trustee and real estate heiress who has collected artists like Nicole Eisenman, Cindy Sherman and Hank Willis Thomas. She acquired two green works through the Derek Eller Gallery in as many years, including the aforementioned image of a noose and a severed head, called You reach it, you reach it.

Artist Derek Fordjour also purchased a work, Pinocchiowhich features a boy hanging from a noose on the branch of a tree filled with crows and severed heads.

“It almost had a school and childish charm to it,” Fordjour told Artnet News. “But the content was so compelling and powerful that it really belied the way it was painted.”

“Jameson is not interested in the lowest common denominator. He has his own way, and it’s not one that’s particularly concerned with beauty. In today’s market, it’s a refreshing take,” added Fordjour.

Jameson Green, Pinocchio (2021).  Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

Jameson Green, Pinocchio (2021). Photo: Derek Eller Gallery.

Derek Eller recalled his first encounter with Green’s work as more invigorating than refreshing. In 2019, Merchant saw the artist’s paintings at the Hunter College MFA thesis exhibition.

“Sometimes you just have a feeling,” Eller said, admiring how Green could incorporate stylistic references to artists like Guston and Picasso without becoming derivative. “I was struck by how Jameson clearly had a strong enough voice to overshadow the historical references in his work.”

During this time Green had studied masterpieces in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, painting and repainting portraits of John Singer Sargent, Velázquez and Vermeer to maximize his sensitivity to the sentiment and tones of the greats.

In early 2020, Eller decided to include Green in its lineup for the online edition of Frieze. A year later, the artist received his first personal exhibition at the gallery,Demon New Moon Ballet.”

Jamison Green in the studio.  Photo: Charles Roussel

Jameson Green in the studio. Photo: Charles Roussel

That a relatively unknown artist with a small online presence and a short resume became so popular so quickly is a testament to changing tastes in the market, Eller said. In recent years, prices for figure paintings from an anointed cast of young artists, especially artists of color and women, have skyrocketed in the secondary market. However, some fans hope Green can avoid falling victim to speculation.

“I always worry about young artists,” DeWoody said. “What’s happening is people are starting to flip their art because they think they can get $1 million for something I bought for $30,000. Once they get to a point like Jameson, you’re not going to get it unless you’re willing to pay really high prices at an auction.

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