The Drawers -  Jesse McCloskey   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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There is a depth to the narrative behind Jesse McCloskey's shocking expletive where the dog/devil and girl/witch act out. The works of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Johns used references that came from childhood and adolescence - guns, toys, cartoons, maps, targets, cars, posters, advertisements, televisions and more. Their youth had come from the upswing of consumerism and their interest had been informed by the milieu of a prosperous America. Jesse McCloskey grew up in New England, home of the witch trials, Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower, Pocahontas and then the normal - bad boys, naughty girls and dogs. Mix these essential components in with a Fine Arts education replete with references from art history and there is a clue to McCloskey's secret ingredients.

There is an acknowledgment of suffering, wrong-doing, struggle and righteousness in the squiring of tales such as the one of a little girl of four years was tied, hands to feet, during the Inquisition - that in reality was based on property rights - in order to extract information on the devil. Quite the story to tell. Or Pocahontas spraying graffiti as the puritans wiped out her people. The struggle is not so easy to categorise as being 'renegade' or 'reactionary' once the impetus behind this work is explored. Abhorrent situations can be spellbinding so when he studies historical reference books for content of a nasty nature, gobbles it up and spews it out with a frenetic energy, the witchcraft has begun.

There are stories that are common to cultures and ages that serve as templates for the common narrative of the time: the creation myths, the passion plays, the Greek tragedies, theatre del arte, classical allegories and biblical morality tales. The action within them serves to illustrate the temper of the time. Jesse McCloskey appears to have developed a current common narrative within the consistent imagery of the dog/devil and the girl/witch that he has used in paintings and drawings over a number of years. Are the dog and the girl with their hedonistic foreplay and wild abandon an apt metaphor for a debauched culture or is his work a release for both himself as the perpetrator of the imaginings and for the voyeuristic perspective?

What might have seemed to be solely a flight of fancy into naughty-making, has now gained the credence of a commitment and the story has even progressed to encompass raunchier sexual exploits with more brutal retaliation against the harassment metered out by the 'other', be it dog or girl. This work is not as simplistic as the pitching of good against evil, despite the angelic face of the girl or the gradual leaning of the physiognomy of the dog to goat-ishness for the girl gets down and dirty as well. Neither is hanging on to appearances and in fact the girl has been showing her witch-y side, throwing back the liquor with apparent relish and riding the strangled canine hard.

This is permissive abandon, bestiality and bad messy fun. There seems to be no moral amidst the searing colors and libidinous sweeps of paint. From the contemporary awareness of a world with a political climate of masked purposes, incomprehensible corporate power-mongering and materialistic prompts, it's a relief to spend some quality time following the scatological incorrectness of McCloskey's girl and dog.

He is uncovering malaise, recognizing it and placing it in the face of a complacent society with as much aplomb as he can muster with his expressionistic handling of the picture surface. None of the cucumber cool of the early pop guys; he pushes and pulls the surface with vehemence and extracts the energy needed for his un-didactic wake-up call.
Jesse McCloskey is the Red Bull of pop.

Copyright 2008,  Julie Oakes