Jennifer Elster has always been a deeply reactionary artist. Whether it is rebutting (or accepting) seismic shifts in the culture or simply responding to a question posed or a happening taking place, her multi-modal replies are always candid and fizzling with raw, determined energy.
Elster has always consumed with world as anyone else does- receiving and interpreting on an on-going basis. But rather than letting things happen to her passively, she posits and responds urgently and instinctually. Stepping into the Take Heed show, now on view at The Development Gallery in Tribeca, one feels as if they’re stepping outside for the first time after an apocalyptic event.
Crystalizing the flurry of cultural norms that have been introduced in the past two years, Take Heed is the first honest retrospective of work that was created or heavily reconsidered under the shadow of an on-going global pandemic and an affronting war.
Taking shape amid the soaring columns and roiled tin roof and wood of the Tribeca space, the show feels like a shell of what once was and a space being repopulated once more. The dust has settled but hasn’t yet been swept away. A mount of KN95 masks, a signature element of the deepest valley of the COVID-19 pandemic, are positioned on a pedestal, taking on the performance of a future relic. In fact, preservation seems particularly important to Elster in this show, with many works being encased in plexiglas or wood.
A series of large-scale self-portraits, originally executed in 2016, featured Elster in military fatigues and gas masks. The works, faraway and innocuous at the time of their execution, are revisited within the collective gasp and gaze of an egregious war taking place in Ukraine. Have no doubt, conflict rages globally. But distance can breed unfounded comfort.
Elster’s instinctual quips, done in chiseled marker, are not flailing in conspiracy, but are bright-red warning lights. “Warhead” (2022) is one of the most delicate and thought-provoking pieces the artist has completed in recent memory, adding to an ongoing series of “head” works that address, in the most abstract way, the awe-inspiring dynamism of the human condition.
Unlike previous shows, Elster is no longer angry. She’s done defending herself. Now she is a communicator. Her prophesies have come true and she’s been prepared for a long while. Now she invites the broader world to involve themselves. Of course, there is humor. There is realism. Elster remains as buoyant as ever, motivated by- believe it or not- absolute optimism.
Viewers will relish in the opportunity to revisit one of Elster’s most remarkable achievements: the styling of the late David Bowie. In a new installation, the image, which is celebrated for its deeply collaborative and improvised instant, enters into a new territory of multi-dimensional bliss by way of cut web around the enlarged image. “Bowie and I went very deep. I wanted to pay tribute and incorporate but not overwhelm the show.”ChannelELSTER.com/art-gallery and on Artsy. Most of the show has sold, but there are collectible Limited Editions Gaeclee canvases and Digital C-Prints that will be available upon proposal.Elster’s work are available to purchase for the first time at
Take Heed will be on exhibition through January 5, 2023 at The Development Gallery in Tribeca, NYC.
Shop the J. Elster collection here.