You Know I'm No Good July 23–November 1, 2015 Complete Wall

You Know I’m No Good
July 23–November 1, 2015
Complete Wall Text
You Know I’m No Good
The title of this exhibition comes from the 2006 Amy Winehouse single of the same name
from the album Back to Black. The curators have invited two San Francisco-based artists,
Jason Jägel and Jennie Ottinger, to respond to Winehouse’s legacy. Jägel is known for his
paintings that combine text and cartoon-like figures to create dreamlike narratives that pull
the viewer across the image and back again. For this exhibition, he created the mural-sized
paintings for the gallery wall visible from Yerba Buena Way. He pays homage to prior
musical innovators whose stories resonate as similar to Winehouse’s, like stride piano player
Willie “The Lion” Smith, and drummer Robert Wyatt of the bands Soft Machine and
Matching Mole. Also on view are earlier works that he sees as related to this project.
Ottinger’s paintings blur the line between childhood memory and childhood fantasy, power
and vulnerability, attraction and repulsion. Throughout her practice, she parodies the rules of
such social practices as competitive sports, and most recently, the circus. For You Know I’m
No Good, Ottinger responds to the legacy of Amy Winehouse through the singer-songwriter’s
influences. Her paintings depict iconic girl groups such as The Ronettes, The Supremes, and
powerhouse singers Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday as predecessors and
influences on Winehouse’s singular look and vocal style while calling into question the idea
of legacy for female artists specifically.
In addition, a selection of Rachel Harrison’s well-regarded drawings of Amy Winehouse,
begun upon the singer’s untimely death, is on view for the first time in Northern California.
Harrison, who is best known for her sculptural works, presents Winehouse alongside
important creative figures such as Pablo Picasso and Dutch Renaissance painter Gerrit van
Honthorst, among others.
Together, these three artists pay homage to Winehouse’s work while simultaneously
despairing over the effect of fanatic attitudes towards genius and tragedy.
Rachel Harrison
Untitled, 2012
Untitled, 2011
Untitled, 2011
Untitled, 2012
All colored pencil on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York
In Rachel Harrison’s drawings, Amy Winehouse has company. Alice Neel stares out from a
nude self-portrait pose; Marcel Duchamp’s erotic Wedge of Chastity, prancing dancers by
Henri Matisse, a shirtless Martin Kippenberger, and Willem de Kooning’s violently
exaggerated Woman, all make an appearance. Sixteenth century aristocrat-painter Margareta
Maria de Roodere, as depicted by Gerrit van Honthorst, touches the singer’s nail-polished
finger. Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman or his portrait of Gertrude Stein are mirrored by the
pop star’s fame-battered face, and her eyes take on jagged positions like the many Cubist
portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter. In one drawing, Winehouse’s hairdo morphs into
Picasso’s illustration of the tangled “Unknown Masterpiece” labored over by Honoré de
Balzac’s tortured artist character named Frenhofer. The drawings’ formal juxtapositions may
seem to align Winehouse’s story with clichés of the burdened artist at work, the frustrated
muse, and the lone absinthe drinker. But in most of these compositions, Winehouse appears
indifferent to the nearby figures of the past. Her woozy swerve, her tattoos, heavy eye-liner,
and amplified beehive weave drown out their comparatively quiet gestures, as if she were
stumbling through the halls of art history after a long night out.
Then there is a third artist on the page, whose presence is of course key—Harrison herself.
In her sculptures, which combine store-bought objects and handmade painted forms,
Harrison often toys with and distorts conventions of portraiture, homage, and gendered
objectification in art historical and pop cultural imagery. Rather than simply appropriating
the paparazzi images of Winehouse, Harrison has chosen to animate and re-imagine them, in
the context of these canonical scenes. In so doing, she inserts her own hand in the long line
of painter-and-muse, camera-and-subject relationships, and she acknowledges Winehouse’s
plight as both a captivating, defiant subject and an all-too-familiar struggle of the artist
required to produce on call. In re-claiming such imagery at its most poignant moment, these
drawings also seem to commiserate with the fact that, more often than not, the life of an
artist is public domain.
Annie Ochmanek
Jennie Ottinger
Mouth to Mouth: pieces from an animation about cultural appropriation, 2015
Acrylic on paper and canvas with sound
Courtesy of the artist and Johannson Projects, Oakland
This installation was inspired by an article by Yale professor Daphne Brooks called ‘‘This voice
which is not one:” Amy Winehouse sings the ballad of sonic blue(s)face culture,” in which she discusses
the historic appropriation of black musical culture. In the installation I focused on the
mouths to show that, as talented as Ms. Winehouse was, she did not invent her distinctive
sound but brilliantly extended what has been happening in black music from Mamie Smith
in the 1920s through Lauryn Hill in the 1990s.
The soundtrack that accompanies the installation is a recording of Amy Winehouse singing
her hit single You Know I’m No Good layered over clips of live audiences clapping during
performances by Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. I wanted to underline that
as amazing as Winehouse sounds, she built on the work of talented predecessors who sadly
never achieved the level of appreciation that she did.
Jennie Ottinger
Jason Jägel
Crepuscule With Another Amy, 2015
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 16
I’ve made a kind of fictional history painting: a multi-part story that casts out in several
directions, whose creation strives to describe a mythical sphere in which these images all
coexist. The narratives combine personal mythology with elements derived from my
research as a record collector and guided by the pantheon of Black American music that
inspired the musical sound and vocal character of Amy Winehouse.
Old records are part of an immense, non-linear history text; each album represents a part, a
page that is connected in one way or another to the other pages. As objects and documents
records have a persistent life, even when only a few exist; are under threatening conditions;
or after transcontinental journeys. Thus, an album from the 1960s can have great effect on a
recording made today. As a collector, it is always exciting to begin to see how the dots
connect: to see how sounds and approaches proliferated internationally during certain eras.
Among the major historical figures in music that Amy Winehouse has stated as influential is
composer and pianist Thelonious Monk, whose music my father would play at loud volume
during my childhood. Reportedly in 1957, Monk wrote the ballad Crepuscule With Nellie for
his wife when she was having surgery (though I’ve seen archive television footage in which
Monk states he composed the tune in the early 40s). Crepuscule means twilight, that
constantly changing, brief period where day is exiting and night entering. Images of, not to
mention the music of, Monk and his Harlem Stride Piano predecessor, Willie “The Lion”
Smith, directly inspired the hatted, smoking dog piano player in my painting. For me,
twilight is an apt metaphor to describe how art is always changing, from ragtime to stride to
swing to bop, and how the transformative light of dusk causes us to see colors differently,
comparable to the way a new artistic idiom can change our thinking.
My approach to this project was to regard the story of Amy Winehouse symbolically and to
use elements of that story as a jumping off point for a story of my own. Besides being a
record collector, as a father of two musically talented, growing daughters it was implicit that
I represent young girls performing. Amounting to a form of tribute, the paintings make
reference to many sources and experiences that have deep value for me artistically. There is
one character depicted here that could be a young Amy, or another Amy. Her back is turned
to us, reading at a window—in that moment in her life when colliding forces are still
dawning, or dusking before an approaching night.
References in these paintings include: Solomon Burke, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk,
Willie “The Lion” Smith, Max Beckmann, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, The Ronettes,
Robert Wyatt, my father John Jägel’s 1968 sketchbook drawing, my daughters and their peer
group, alcoholism, and the Death Experience.
Jason Jägel
July 16, 2015
Jason Jägel
New Ways Of Thinking, 2013
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 16
Jason Jägel
What Remains When You’re Not Here, 2015
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 16
Matching Mole on Rockenstock (7-1-1972)
From BassLudeman