Last year I visited Palm Springs for the first time. Aside from relishing the perfect blue October skies and the daily 93 degree temperatures, I had the good fortune to be there during Modernism Week Fall Preview. While taking in a fascinating guided tour of architect Albert Frey’s house, I remember thinking to myself that Jesse M. Bell’s work would not be out of place. I had been a big fan of Bell’s paintings since first discovering them on Instagram of all places in 2013. The modernist and mid-century modern notes prevalent in his paintings struck a chord with me, appealing to my personal aesthetic and design sensibilities. Almost two years later I am thrilled to welcome him to the gallery.
Bell was born in Marshall, Michigan and received his BA in Visual Arts from Olivet College. Since that time, Bell has been creating work that strives to condense his visual language into two-dimensional imagery. Focusing primarily on the abstraction and interaction of organic shapes in various painting mediums, he employs symbols and detached iconography to create what he refers to as “visual poems”. Bell has shown in numerous group and solo shows throughout the Upper Midwest and currently works and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
So what lies behind Bell’s work? He describes his process and influences below.
“Inspiration for my work comes from many unassuming places – an errant line, a whirl of handwriting, the prickly thatch of cross-hatched marks, a splatter of ink – each element contributing in its own unique way to the formation of my images. The interaction and visual interplay of these symbols and graphical forms is an ever evolving process of discovery and modification, and continues to lend itself to countless and varied motifs.
More conventional symbols and markings often make appearances too, such as arrows, stars and kites. These linear elements are usually detached from their original meaning and used in new ways to manipulate surface tension, shape agreement, or even more frequently, as purely abstract iconography.
The resulting work is steeped in the visual language of modernism and the corresponding, mid-century modes of formal exploration. It is art primarily concerned with the interaction between, and delineation of, both shape and color and often emphasizes a loose, more automatic approach to the application of pigment and arrangement of form. It is through this artistic exploration, and continuing visual conversation, that I assimilate time, experience, and my being-in-the-world.”