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Jesse Edwards’ Banal Still Lives

What would the still lives of contemporary culture look like? They’re not beautiful baskets of fruit and vases, right? They’d be a lot more sordid.

Artist Jesse Edwards is capturing the feeling of contemporary still life by taking micro-moments in Westernized culture and using them as the basis of classic still lives. His work is deeply funny and disgusting, a means to process hyper-sexualized culture amidst the associated conservative shame placed on desire. His work points out transgressions—against literal laws or cultural tropes—that touch on the déclassé and taboo. Outside of the paintings and ceramics being high art, nothing about the subjects are sophisticated: they mimic our new normalcies, private moments zoomed in on and adored.

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This is done on two fronts: painted still lives of pre-masturbatory rituals and illegal acts, from fireworks to doing drugs, paired with ceramics of cell phones that poke through the screen, into everyone’s private pages. The still lives own our terrible branded sensibility, how—even to induce pleasure—we have to turn to something fabricated for us in order to complete ourselves. His work shows us that it’s very hard to be independently happy.

The ceramic phones are a deeply funny and gross way to explore sex as it relates mobile entertainment. When we can induce sex in the palms of our hands, we all induce sex. The phones come from a very masculine sensibility, the gay or straight porn hunter on-the-go. Yet, there is an underline of female empowerment in the gaze, a profitable transaction happening: all the male nudes are self-taken and shared versus the women who are in “classic porn,” in a position where they are profiting from the gaze. (If, you know, the porn industry were perfect…which it is not.)

Edwards isn’t making the type of art that is wanted but people but is needed because it truly is a reflection of that which isn’t discussed but done over and over again in 2016 life. In his way, he makes today’s universal personal public, questioning how we want to be entertained and how are entertained. What he does with his art feels like something Kanye West accomplished with The Life Of Pablo: explode life today in the prettiest-ugliest way possible. Like the porny phones, a mashing of the highest end with the lowest end, it’s all about looking and lusting. We consume, therefore we are, right?

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