Shotgun Review


By Matt Sussman September 24, 2015

Since 2004, Veronica De Jesus’ hand-drawn portraits of the recently deceased have graced the corner windows of Mission District bookseller Dog Eared Books. Some subjects are famous, while others might only be known locally. Viewed over time, the ever-changing cluster of cocktail-napkin obituaries that face Valencia and 20th Streets has become both a public record of private mourning and, much like the shop they adorn, a repository of collective memory.

The pieces in TRUST, previously on view in the backroom gallery of Dog Eared’s sister store, Alley Cat Books, are no less emotionally charged despite the seeming obliqueness of De Jesus’s choice of materials and methods. Unlike Shana Moulton’s recent slick take on New Age cultural detritus at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, De Jesus’ art doesn’t wink. The cheerily colored variants on the tree of life symbol, done in acrylic and ink, and the simply rendered drawings of allegorically named figurative trios such as Anger, Fear, Courage, are perhaps the most obvious and least interesting results of (to borrow two of the mantra-like phrases from De Jesus’ artist statement) “letting go to let in” or “stopping to feel even when it’s difficult.”

Veronica De Jesus, Something Dark, 2015; oak, walnut, almond (luminous wood), spaghetti. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Matt Sussman.

By contrast, there is nothing woo-woo about the table-like sculptures arrayed around the room; they are the very picture of vulnerability. Made of unfinished wood and covered with arrangements of natural and human-made materials—oak, walnut, aluminum, plastic drinking straws, dried spaghetti—these queer structures look as unsure as newborn foals standing upright for the first time. De Jesus’ notes also mention Joseph Beuys, whose trademark felt hat is here rendered in cardboard. If these humble assemblages of general-store tack can be called a kind of social sculpture, it is not because they strive for the universal through an economy of means. Rather, their discomfiting presence encourages something more closely felt, something close to empathy.


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Trust is on view at Alley Cat Books Gallery, in

San Francisco

, through August 31, 2015.

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