Jennifer Celio


Press Release/Statement

Jennifer Celio

LAUNCH LA is proud to present Monochromart a new group show featuring James Griffith, Antonio Pelayo and Jennifer Celio. Despite being limited to a single color for their works, all three artists present unique works which, rather than being drab and uniform, are alive with an eclectic mix of perspectives and styles.

Griffith’s paintings explore Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection through skilful images of animals painted with tar on canvas. Executed with a depth of feeling akin to Durer’s famous naturalistic sketches, these animals blur and morph into each other; in some places the tar is thick and in other parts it seems to fade into the white background – a visual marker for the dance of evolution and extinction. Though some of these animals are locked in combat, humans, are markedly absent as apex predators. Sea-birds painted in a substance very similar to crude-oil are enough to infer the devastation our species is capable of.

Celio cobbles together her references from different photographs to create dreamlike landscapes: wild horses and snippets of famous scenic spots appear alongside ‘inconvenient and ugly elements of the urban environment’ like oil derricks, graffiti, low flying airplanes and food trucks. The nonchalant way both unnatural and natural elements coexist in Celio’s drawings is pleasantly absurd, yet it also exposes the fantasy that environmental issues disappear if keep out of sight and out of mind – in the real world this level of harmony does not exist.

Pelayo alternates between public figures and intimate portraits of family members for his drawings. His evident admiration for both is matched only by his reverence for technical perfection. He captures the ‘hook’ of each personality behind the face – emotional intensity, childhood innocence and nativity or the depth of his subject’s life. Without a single coloured pen or daub of brightness, Pelayo brings out the color in each character he draws.

Celio and Pelayo both chose to use graphite and yet still came up with strikingly different results: the ambiance of Celio’s work is that of a fata-morgana, her greys catching light like spider-silk, while Pelayo’s subtle lines emanate a sort of nostalgic warmth, as if looking back through the blur of memory at a loved one’s face. The tar Griffith harvested from the L.A. Tar Pits for his works, though still ‘monochrome’ alternates between amber and pitch-black depending on the fluidity of its application.

Diverse as its component parts may be, when viewed together this body of works reveals the fragile relationship between humanity, its environment and the other life-forms we share it with.

. . .

Jennifer Celio is a native of Southern California who actually loves Los Angeles. Jennifer received a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from California State University, Fullerton in 1996. She was raised in the suburbs of L.A. and now lives and works in Long Beach, CA.

Her drawings have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Cristinerose Gallery and Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts in New York City, the Creative Artists’ Agency in Los Angeles, romo gallery in Atlanta, GA, Bandini Art in Culver City, CA, California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA, and Phantom Galleries in Long Beach, CA. Her work has been included in exhibits in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Houston; and Canada, and in museum exhibits in the Los Angeles area and Indianapolis.

She is the recipient of individual artist grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2012), The City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artist Fellowship (2014), The Center for Cultural Innovation’s Artist’s Resources for Completion grant (2012), a nominee for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s (NY, NY) L.A. Art Grant Initiative (2013), the City of Long Beach, CA Professional Artist Grant (2010), and the Hoff Foundation (2008).

Jennifer’s work was published in Studio Visit (2009) and New American Paintings (2003) and was Shortlisted in the 2008 London International Creative Competition, which also published a book. Her drawings have received critical review in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Art Papers, Art Ltd. Magazine, Artillery Magazine, the Huffington Post, Flavorpill, The Orange County Register and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


My delicately rendered drawings manipulate perception, creating fantastical iterations in which artificial and natural imagery fuse to become newly impossible sites. Working in graphite pencil on paper, I create obsessively detailed scenes with cross hatching techniques, the imagery inspired by the urban environment. With photography acting as a starting point, the recent drawings have evolved from the literal to the unbelievable, now amalgamating selected elements from my collection of images and integrating them to make a single drawing.

My current body of work, titled “Not In My Back Yard,” references the “NIMBY” acronym that was coined within the environmental and conservation movement. These drawings explore the inconvenient and ugly elements of the urban environment, placing objects like food trucks, oil derricks, caged trees, graffiti, windmills, and out of place animals into imagined settings that seem plausible yet are dystopian. I use the juxtaposition between natural and man-made surroundings to illustrate the invasive tendencies of modern urbanization. Without blatantly depicting nature as being “under-siege” by modernity, the drawings instead capture the imbalance created when nature tries to reclaim or adapt to urban expansion.

From the industrial technology at the Port of Los Angeles to the audacity of the cell phone signal towers disguised as “trees”; from the bleakly quiet stretches of concrete riverbeds through suburbia to the stubborn sections of nature that survive amidst ever-encroaching development-these elements of Long Beach, Los Angeles and the suburbs inspire me to dream up images of what I think is to come if we continue building cities in this manner. Hinting at the contemporary threat of environmental degradation, my dense drawings depict seemingly mundane spaces that have been artificially altered or supercharged. The artificiality of our natural environment as well as our quest for it is questioned.

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