PAINTER JENI SPOTA GETS ON A FAST TRACK TO SUCCESS: HER MIX OF CONTEMPORARY AND RELIGIOUS IMAGERY IS ATTRACTING COLLECTORS IN EUROPE AND THE STATES, AND HER SOLO SHOWS ARE FILLING THE CALENDAR.
Published on 23/08/09 by Leah Ollman
Only months out of graduate school, painter Jeni Spota had her first solo gallery show. Not that unusual, perhaps, in an art world that mirrors the broader culture's lust for youth and novelty. The show, at Chinatown's Sister gallery, sold out before it opened.
A few months later, Spota had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, part of a series featuring emerging area artists. Such a show, early in a career, is also becoming less out-of-the-ordinary, but hers was the first in the series, recalls curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm, "where I had to borrow every piece from collectors, major collectors," most notably Paris-based FranÃ§ois Pinault, and L.A.'s Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson. "Word had gotten out."
A Project Room exhibition featuring four of Spota's paintings on canvas and one cast in bronze with a silver patina just closed at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Four new paintings will go on view Sept. 12 in the artist's second solo show at Sister, which is changing its name to Kathryn Brennan Gallery. The largest piece was just bought by London-based collector Charles Saatchi.
Rapid success distinguishes Spota, who moved to L.A. last year, from the flood of aspiring artists released annually from MFA programs nationwide, but more than her blossoming career, it's the tone and technique of her work that set her apart. Spota's paintings are small, sincere and strangely anachronistic. They seem to occupy radically different time zones and psychic spaces at once. Lush, gooey, heaving with motion and emotion, the paintings are physically immediate, while summoning imagery from religious iconography of centuries past: Christ's baptism, crucifixion and deposition, Adam and Eve, the Virgin Mary, St. Francis.
JENI SPOTA: MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CHICAGO
Published on 20/02/08 by Jason Foumberg
As if reciting the rosary, Jeni Spota paints the same religious scene again and again, canvas after canvas. Each small panel depicts a three-tiered last judgment in which the crucifixion is sandwiched between angels in heaven above and sinners in hell below. Typically, Christ presides over the last judgment (which took place after the second coming), but here an image of the Madonna and Child, encased in a mandorla, is the keystone. This iconographic interruption is not Spota's invention, but a direct quote of a tableau vivant from Pasolini's Decameron (1971), an adaptation of Boccaccio's 14th-century allegorical tales, that focuses on Giotto. In the film, the artist is shown consulting a drawing of a commissioned fresco, but a single panel still needs to be planned - how will he fill in the scene? Giotto is shown in a crowded market drawing inspiration from daily life, but he is struck by a moment of clarity while sleeping. In his dream he sees this last judgment with the Virgin above. Accordingly, all of Spota's paintings are titled 'Giotto's Dream'.
From Boccaccio we know that Giotto is painting in the Church of Santa Chiara in Naples. This fresco is now lost, so both Pasolini and Spota's representations are conflations of extant Giotto frescoes. Spota also adds further elements to the scene: extra sinners, a banner of Christ's face, even Watts Towers (1921-54), the monumental sculpture in Los Angeles by self-taught Italian immigrant Simon Rodia. Note that all of Spota's references are 'made in Italy.' (She became a Giotteschi after living near the church of San Francesco in Assisi, home to a trove of Giotto's frescoes.)