The palette of black would seemingly be the darkest element in Jesse Draxler’s latest series of collage works featured in the exhibition Table of Losses. Or perhaps it would be the death metal motifs. Or even the titles such as Conjuring, The Leviathan of Eyes in My Mind Roll Backwards, and Black Dragon. The overall aesthetic of the series makes it a clean fit for dark art. But it is easy to evaluate the surface of such works and categorize them under a generic label. For a series of works that directly addresses the abyss, it would be an incomplete analysis to merely trace our gaze around the physical. Jesse Draxler’s Table of Losses is a study of abstraction with the surrealist inquiry. By abstraction I mean the break from pure representation. And by surreal I mean accessing the subconsciousness, bringing the unknown into perception. In Table of Losses Draxler arranges displaced parts into a collective composition. It is the displacement of form and the veil of the subconsciousness that are the fundamental forms of darkness in these works.
The triptych series Shifted consists of three works, each containing a chandelier whose collective form is composed of parts from an original singular photograph. The parts were reassembled, but not quite perfectly. Although we interpret the collection of parts as a singular image of a chandelier, a careful look reveals that the sections do not perfectly align, leaving some areas of the chandelier missing. The assembly of parts has created a new object, not a reconstruction of the original. It is as if the original chandelier had been broken down into its elements to be redesigned, a sort of rebirth. One with a new dimension by the layering of pieces upon one another that originally were rendered as a single two-dimensional image. When something or someone has been displaced that person or thing must assimilate into a new context. This mirrors the process of death in which decomposition breaks down one form into elements that are then redistributed and assimilated into another form. But even if that form is not broken down on an elemental level, but is displaced, such as a refugee who transplants their culture into a new environment, that form will be a variation of the original.
In Draxler’s works, displacing images either as a variation or as a confrontation, is an exercise in exploring transition. Visually there is a stasis in the works. There are only a few images that capture movement. The true sense of movement in the works lies within the concepts, and often in the titles, such as, Conjuring, Changing, and Shifted. These titles indicate transition, and it is within transition that darkness is experienced. In this context, darkness is that moment of uncertainty, the unknown, a period when one’s position is not fixed. This state of suspension is not necessarily a negative experience. But this moment, which we have all experienced, can challenge our notions of normality. Its purpose is to challenge such notions in order to expand our normative boundaries. This transitional moment is the chaos element, in which temporality is its vehicle. This in-between state naturally creates a dichotomy, or a sense of duality for what a person was and what they will be.
This state of in-between also occurs between the physical and the mental, or the exterior and the interior. In The Leviathan Of Eyes In My Mind Roll Backwards similar portraits of a woman have been placed side-by-side. These portraits are seemingly identical, except that in the portrait on the left her eyes are closed, and the portrait on the right her eyes are open. There appears to either be a single or two photographs of the same model in reverse with the face and head cut out placed over the two photographs that splits each their forms in half, yet at the same time unites the two portraits. Several lines of white acrylic paint were marked over their eyes and then drawn across the portraits to connect one another. With open and closed eyes Draxler is addressing an interior and exterior experience of identity. And for the viewer, information is disclosed and concealed through the gaze looking back at us.
A passive sense of identity might perceive fluidity between body and mind. But just as the skin appears smooth, at closer glance all the texture and anomalies begin to appear. Through displacement, temporality, and interiority Table of Losses provides an imprint of darkness that complements the stylistic elements that are associated with darkness. If Table of Losses were sound it would be distortion. Not distortion in the sense of disfigurement, but in the sense of the indefiniteness that occurs when your gaze focuses so closely on an object that it loses all context.