An artist attuned to the vagaries of contemporary cultural memory, Joseph Yaeger’s practice can be thought of as a parallel investigation in the fetishisation of images in contemporary libidinal economies, and in painting’s contemporaneous agency in the transformation and circulation of the visible.
“The imagery I use is a protracted search to better understand myself; playing or putting on roles that might clarify an interior that is sort of naturally hidden, even from myself. I’ll come across an image––sometimes I’m searching for one, sometimes I stumble into it––and the feeling of it, the arrangement, the subject, the relation of subjects within the image, will sort of jar me, attract me, dislodge me.” 1
The images appear at first glance immediately recognisable and equally untraceable, an uncanny déjà vu. How Yaeger reacts to the image, a certain “jar” or attraction, perhaps a feeling of loss, jumpstarts the process of turning an image into a panting. The writer Don Delillo’s phrase “There is a world inside the world,” 2 is a guiding principle for the artist. The context of the image dissolves and reveals in the transformation, abstracting the original into copy.
For the artist’s first solo show, Doublespeak, at Project Native Informant, he has produced a new body of paintings that all take glass as a guiding visual metaphor for the distorting qualities of language. “Like language, glass can be transparent and reflective at once, conceal while revealing, it can distort, it can mirror, and then consider what happens in one’s mind when encountering these distortions. For me this is not so unlike assigning language to an interior feeling. Language doesn’t encapsulate or really even begin to describe the goings-on within, but it does communicate.” 3 A woman gazes into a mirror, her agonised expression reflected, a figure is fractured into pieces by a hall of mirrors, a face is distorted by a magnifying glass held up towards the lips. These enigmatic paintings appear to contain obscured meanings, unrevealed to the viewer.
Alongside the paintings, Yaeger has published a text. Like much of his writing, it does not seek to provide a didactic reading, but rather presents a liminal way into his conceptual thinking surrounding the exhibition. The text will be available as a limited edition publication that will launch during the opening of the inaugural London Gallery Weekend.
1 Interview with Joseph Yaeger by ISOVIST, 17 August 2020.
2 Delillo, Libra (NY: Penguin, 1988) 13.
3 Interview with Joseph Yaeger by Emergent Magazine, 21 May 2021.