Artist: Stevan Jennis
NUMBER PAINTING SERIES
I began my number paintings with the idea of moving away from representational or narrative subject matter and, instead, concentrating on design, color and composition as a meditation. By using numbers as a vehicle, I allow myself to give them individuality, alone or as groups, making them different sizes and colors, while using them as both recognizable and ordinary shapes.
Stevan Jennis has been interested in painting, drawing and sculpture since childhood. He was inspired by his father, who was an artist and a Merchant Mariner. Born in Newark, New Jersey, his family moved to Los Angeles when he was eleven. Jennis attended UCLA graduate school, receiving an MA in art, then went on to the University of Massachusetts where he taught and earned an MFA in painting and sculpture. He moved to NYC in 1976 to pursue his career as an artist and now resides in the Hudson Valley, NY, where he has a studio in a 19th C. barn he converted himself.
In both two and three dimensions, Jennis' work often juxtaposes whimsy with dark themes using recurrent images that constitute a personal iconography. Much of his artwork stems from spontaneous drawings which are refined and elaborated on and these become the basis for the creation of paintings and sculpture.
Jennis' sculpture emerges from a subconscious and familiar place. He pushes an ordinary object into a more creative place of importance by distorting it through character, texture, patina and/or color. The newly developed piece is at once ominous and playful in tone, existing in its three dimensional space.
Paint-by-numbers are of interest to Jennis due to both their manufactured and hand done qualities. Their pretense of being art is apparent, despite the often mundane matter and prescribed nature of their creativity. Jennis retains the elements of kitsch and nostalgia in his paint-by-number collages and brings the work to a new level of individuality and creativity. It is a meditative act which involves making visual aesthetic choices and combining elements to make a unified whole.
At once humorous and oddly unsettling, Jennis' world suggests the banal stuff of daily life filtered through the jumbled imagination of the feverish child.
Eleanor Heartney- Art in America
Jennis is one of those artists with his own visual vocabulary. His cartoony style and self-referential tendencies make for an approachable work - but it also has a dark side, as though Saul Steinberg came back, altered, from the dead.
David Brickman- Metroland
However autobiographical these [playful, toy-like] sculptures might at first appear, while seeming to be relics of childhood, they also seem to mediate between the transitory and the infinite.
John Yau - Art in America
Jennis' paintings, complicated and executed as if in a passionate rush of emotion, are reminiscent of the great Surrealist works.
Paul Smart - The Almanac