Jack Mernin: Still Wants in Motion

June 23 - August 30, 2023
121 Watts Street

JO-HS NY is pleased to present their second foray in the US with a solo exhibition of paintings by Jack Mernin, an American artist from their roster. The title 'Still Wants in Motion' holds multiple meanings, alluding to the act of painting as dialectics at a standstill, yet still moving and fueled by desire. The paintings are accompanied by a text written by Jack referring to a moment with a friend.

The exhibition will be on view from June 23rd until August 30th by appointment only.

I recently visited a friend who was at an artist residency in Pittsburgh.  She is someone with whom I can talk at length, with frankness and clarity, and with great range.  Our topics vary from gossip to philosophy and ethics, and we both hold art, process, and history to high standards.  I believe she understands my work.

During lunch, our conversation veered toward our desires and ambitions, what we wanted most from our lives.  She, earnestly, declared career success.  I professed that I wanted mutual love.  We both insisted that our respective wants were much more difficult to achieve than the other’s. 

That day, we visited the Andy Warhol Museum.  I remembered a quote from his diaries, something like, “Once we stop wanting something is when we can get it.”  I think about this schism at times, which seems both true and untrue, or frustratingly true, to me.  There is no truth, only honesty.

My friend and I decided that there was something pathetic and desperate about our aims, about why we continue to create artworks.  I recalled a through-line of Nietzsche’s thinking, where he claims that creative output emerges from a personal deficiency, that we make things to compensate for a lack.  This too feels true. 

I wish to seek new ways and new means.  To insist on the potential for change and development–  the risks including delusion, fantasy, detachment, and addictive, cyclical disappointment and failure. 

I use painting as a tool to understand myself and to come to terms with the world and those around me.  I hope that, residually, they somehow offer the same for a beholder.  I never know how they’re viewed or understood.  But I always make them for someone, and each painting is a portrait of sorts.  I make them for and about someone, someone who probably won’t want them, yet, I realize, someone else might, and their existence has the potential to set off motions and connections that I can’t anticipate.  That’s why I make these things, so that something else can happen.  To accrue a new set of wants again.

- Jack Mernin, 2023

I now know a thing or two about those who seek to feel in order to know that they are alive.  I too ventured upon this dangerous journey, so paltry for our terrible anxiety.  And almost always disappointing.  I learned to make my soul vibrate and I know that, all the while, in the depths of one’s own being, one can remain vigilant and cold, merely observing the spectacle one has granted oneself.  And how often in near boredom…

Excerpt from “Obsession,” by Clarice Lispector, from Complete Stories (New York: New Directions, 2015. Text © 1979 by the Heirs of Clarice Lispector. Translation © 2015 by Katrina Dodson.