Jessica Diamond

After exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, Jessica Diamond showed eight wall drawings of varying dimensions and a series of works on paper as an homage to Yayoi Kusama, who also participated in the last Biennale. One wall drawing in particular served as a guide to Diamond’s recent work. The phrase “We must forget ourselves with polka dots” was painted on colored sections. Coming from an artist who has used language to criticize the political system in general and the art system in particular, this phrase might be taken as a declaration of disengagement or a retreat into subjectivity.

Kusama’s polka dots, those that appear in her soft sculptures or in her vertiginous installations multiplied by mirrored surfaces, constitute a strategy of light from the codified crystallizations of the ego. They recall the psychedelic culture of the ’60s and its liberating impact.

Diamond doesn’t limit herself to an homage, however dutiful, nor does her work embody an experience of psychological transfer. She simply comments upon and updates a precursor and a period when the utopian fusion between art and life seemed possible. It is toward this fusion that Diamond’s “forget ourselves” is directed, toward the overcoming of social and sexual roles that each of us is induced to live. Words are what remain from that utopia, from that period toward which Diamond’s critique is directed. And every word Diamond adopts, using Kusama’s work as a point of departure, conveys an emotional weight that exceeds its most overused meanings, where the excess is emphasized by the formal solutions, and by the power attributed to the message, due to the large scale of the paintings.

From Tributes to Kusama: Me Constellation (all works 1992–93), formed from the black negative space between white marks, to Tributes to Kusama: Sex-Infinity Net and Tributes to Kusama: Love Forever Constellation, lost within the polka dots or within the barely perceptible interweaving of letters and words, these worn out terms seem invested with new meaning.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.