James Esber

Thinker 2, 2020, Acrylic on PVC panel, 40.5 x 32 inches
Working in the border territory between abstraction and representation, James Esber uses a variety of media to disassemble and distort the emotionally charged and often clichéd images of Americana. The characters he’s drawn to, pawed-over icons of popular culture, include things like gunslingers, flag-wavers, dimpled children holding flowers, deadbeat alcoholic dads, and self-absorbed selfie-takers. His paintings, built through a process of hyperbolic mark-making, are done with myopic focus on each part, shifting between scales and allowing for improvised digressions which nudge the image toward abstraction. The resulting hybrid images are often fragmenting and imploding while at the same time stubbornly retaining their integrity.
James Esber has shown his work in New York and abroad including a 25-year survey at the Clifford Gallery at Colgate University (2014) and a solo exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT (2011). He has had multiple one-person shows at PPOW, NYC, Bernard Tolle in Boston and Pierogi in both New York and Leipzig. He has also shown widely in group exhibitions, including One Work at the Tang Museum (2014), The Land of Earthly Delights at The Laguna Art Museum (2008), and SITE Santa Fe’s Fifth International Biennial: Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque (2004).
He lives in Brooklyn, NY and is represented by Pierogi Gallery.
The book mentioned in the interview is The Inkblots by Damion Searls.
Hero, 2021, Acrylic on PVC panel, 48 x 62.5 inches
Thinker 2, 2020, Acrylic on PVC panel, 40.5 x 32 inches
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  1. […] James Esber spoke to us from Williamsburg, Brooklyn where he spent the bulk of the pandemic. He reports that the streets of Brooklyn continued to be lively even during the shutdown, though he adds that this is not a good reflection of how businesses are doing admitting that they continue to struggle. The beginning of lockdown felt like a snow day for Esber in that he and his wife, who is also a painter, already work from home and he doesn’t mind spending time this way. As things moved on, income began to dwindle and their studio lives went through unforeseen changes. Esber likes to work on his pieces over time – often he will put a start and end date on his work and those dates can be years apart. In this way, he feels at times like he is collaborating with a younger version of himself. To hear more about James Esber’s work and process, listen to the complete interview. […]