Jessica Anne Schwartz: Instinctive Formalist

Alan Kaufman

Jessica Anne Schwartz, a purely Left Coast Cali artist, decided, last year, to up and plant herself in the very heart of New York’s Chelsea art district where she maintains a large studio filled with her paintings, drawings and sculptures. No sooner had she landed then she found herself invited to participate in a group show at the prestigious Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery just three blocks from her studio.

Schwartz works constantly and in a variety of medium—oil, acrylic, wood, metal, ink – and in a wide spectrum of modes ranging from minimalist drawings to expressionistic portraiture but what chiefly caught my eye were her painterly abstractions and rust metal sculptures.

The paintings are, simply-put, arresting for their subtle compositional intelligence and refined paint handling while the sculpture give off a steam-punk feel that is bold, metaphysical, underground and at the same time weirdly beautiful.

What staggers me is that Schwartz is entirely self-taught and most likely would claim only passing aquaintance with any number of flattering famous art names that one might toss out in making comparisons to her work. For instance, in her abstracts I see elements of Hans Hoffman, Freidensriech Hundertwasser, even Gustav Klimt while the sculptures possess a monumence and grit all out of proportion to their actual size and are like fragments from the crash landing of an interstellar space ship.

I’m baffled as to who to compare her to, which amazes me, since I’m always trying to connect art world dots. Creatively imbedded at the very epicenter of art world branding, Schwartz, defiiantly, pushes hard at a diversity of means to maximize self-expression, developing versatility, a broad variety of approaches. She is that rarest of artists: a true original who is stubbornly willing to risk all to follow the instincts of her hand and imagination, intuit and pursue developments as they materialize within the painting and assert an instinctive sense of formal rightness that cannot be learned, only absorbed, through long, arduous hours of hard work.

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Alan Kaufman is author of the memoirs Drunken Angel and Jew Boy and a novel, Matches. His forthcoming book is The Outlaw Bible of American Art — the fourth in his series of ‘Outlaw’ anthos. He lives in the East Village, NYC.