Jason Brinkerhoff describes his work as “constrained by a single form – the female.” Anyone with any familiarity with the history of western art will recognise this ‘constraint’ as an engagement with western art history itself, given its inexhaustible fascination with the female nude. Brinkerhoff ’s women seem aware of this too: composed of allusions and nods to art historical forebears, they create a kind of warped taxonomy of female representation. De Kooning’s slithering women collide with Klimt’s demure nymphs; Picasso’s deconstructed physiognomies with Toulouse-Lautrec’s spiky bohemians.
These are nudes not as scientifically observed subjects, as in a life-drawing class, but as receptacles for art-historical memory, that might imply a sort of exhaustion, a sense that the nude itself has nothing more to tell us. On the other hand, Brinkerhoff ’s works are charged with an excitement in making, and an involvement with materials, that gives his works a sense of perpetual freshness. His drawings’ dynamic motions – the swooping lines of charcoal and fuzzy clouds of colour – are used not to describe but to celebrate the immediacy of the drawn mark. And when, as in Familiar Faces, his works combine a variety of approaches (loopy graphite, scribbled pen, fat and dark wax pastel), Brinkerhoff ’s works transcend their obvious allusions – those familiar faces – and become giddily present and alive.