J.J. Manford: Unraveling at Hesse Flatow

J.J. Manford, Waiting Room

J.J. Manford: Unraveling

Hesse Flatow

Curated by Jesse Greenberg

May 22 - June 27, 2020

By NICHOLAS CUEVA, July 2020

J.J. Manford has been a staple of the Brooklyn scene for a decade now, his work in the recent show at Hesse Flatow, curated by Jesse Greenberg titled "Unraveling" got me thinking.  

The whole show is lovely and playful, but what sticks with me are the works by painter JJ Manford, which capture moments of silent reflection within quirky and crunchy domestic spaces and offer us perfect wisdom for this moment in history. 

Recently, all of us have become acutely more aware of our living spaces. Rooms shift in color and tone, day to day, minute by minute. Christ, we all saw Winter turn to Summer, a perspective we probably haven't had since young childhood. Day to day our choices of decoration more and more reflect onto us our own habits, histories and impulses. Declarations of yourself to yourself; sometimes collected, sometimes made, sometimes grown. 

J.J. Manford, Midnight at the Cloisters

We have all now haunted our own homes for months. This is the energy I see in Manford's work. 

Sometimes a curator himself, JJ Manford is now curating within his own paintings. Partly fictional, partly real, the works invite us to deduce someone who isn't present. Like an AirBnB guest in a stranger's home we are seduced towards an object oriented empathy. Manford, by presenting us with still moments staring at walls and standing in hallways, allows us to ruminate over some intimate choices of some unknown other. 

The choices are idealized, the spaces full of ambiance, masterful and rich surfaces splitting open with color. 

Playful pauses. Inviting warmth. Drowsy haze. 

The crackling vibration of Manford's layering of color oscillates, from those of a cracked phone screen to starlight on slate. There is a balance to these, like even breathing. A quite prayer in the night. A skinned knee of color announcing some unknown hour.

J.J. Manford, Interior with Sunflowers

And then you see them. THEY are watching you. Your attention to the little muppet watching you. In this delightful selection by Greenberg for this show, Manford has provided us in each work with our confessor, prowler in the night. An invitation to snap to the recognition of an other. 

Our Beatrice, guiding us through our tortured midnight moments. Our Orpheus snapping to attention at our distress, only to doom us forever. Our recognition of our own fuzzy, frail and cozy existence. These cats break the spell and push us back into the waking world. 

I can't wait to see them all in person. WM

Nicholas Cueva

Nicholas Cueva is a artist and curator. His website is nicholascueva.org, but his Instagram (@nicholascueva) gets updated more often.

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