The images in Jesse Gottesman’s prints are primarily those of the impress of ink on paper—which is to say, whatever associations accrue sooner or later the literal imprint strikes the eye first. That “first-strike” aspect is important because it sets the theme of momentous sensation that pervades Gottesman’s work and provides, under the heading of sublimity, both its loftier and more elusive moments. The associations are, so to speak, legion and compelling, from biochemical minutiae to oceanic and cosmic vastnesses, or just a tone of languid blue sky at an appropriate time of day. (A pallid form drifting across darkness might also suggest one of the varieties of spirit photography recently explored in an exhibition at the Met.) Generous blanks at top and bottom permit scale to spread. The colors resemble workaday press-ink hues—indigo, greenish blacks and so on—modified by shocks of light where the paper shows through. In fact, this seeming plainness is somewhat tweaked, even more so since Gottesman has begun mixing his inks from raw pigments.
High Noon Sword
The imagery in this show is inspired by stormy weather at the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The titles of the works are borrowed from the poetic names for martial arts—Chinese gung fu—movements. For me there is a connection between the experience of gung fu practice—fluidity of movement and control of internal energy—and encounters with nature at its extremes. The practice of gung fu has been described as a needle hidden in cotton. The soft and beautiful appearance of the movements conceal their violent, even deadly usage. In my images the beauty of danger, of being immersed in but not diminished by nature, is revealed by the intensity of color, the heft of shaped forms, and the play of line. These images are abstractions, which at times visually reference dark stormy sea and landscapes. Moreover, they are meant to evoke the emotion and spirituality I experience when standing before a storm—clarity, vibrance, and sensitivity. The large scale of these works is made even more so since the image bleeds off the side edges allowing it to expand beyond the picture plane.
This body of work consists of aquatint etchings in which the image is made by washing hydrochloric acid (Dutch mordant) against a copper plate. The image is printed on paper using hand mixed inks made from raw pigments.
“Be water, my friend.”