Jesse Small

“Decoration” is a deceptively benign word. Ideas spread like germs, broader and faster than the worst germs. And they cannot be healed, because there is nothing physical to remove. But a cultural shift can kill off ideas. Historically, ideas have survived rough times by hiding in decoration. Giving teeth to decoration is a big shift in thinking from the boiler-plate theories I’d been conditioned with, and it continues to fuel my studio practice.

Once I began working in China, seeing the world from the East, I learned a lot about the spread of Chinese technology and aesthetics historically to the West. Here was a culture that had peaked 150 years prior, totally obscured by the rubble of social collapse and untamed development. This was like travelling into the future, and it fundamentally obscured the way I think of myself as being placed in a particular time.

Returning to the US, I make work that is neither here nor there, a mixture of disparate influences. This is how ideas germinate as “decorated” objects, across all borders, silently mixing cultures and eras together. ALL things are amalgamations of earlier, primal things. A search for the origins will circle around many times. A recent vein in my work compares the tradition of Chandeliers with Lanterns. Both function to decorate the act of shedding light, but why are they so formally different? As I try to re-westernize my sensibilities, I find there is no obvious path. Decoration wants to be everywhere, equally, at once.

Contact: Jesse Small
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