Feeling a Little Frisky
by Jason Bryant
Limited edition skateboard
8″ x 31″
Art By Jason Bryant
Jason Bryant grew up in rural North Carolina. Art was always around Bryant, encouraged by his mother, who would often draw comic book figures for him as a kid. At around age six, Bryant would observe with anticipation the joy his uncle derived from creating drawings for him and from watching Bryant create images. These memories serve as seminal moments for Bryant’s development as an artist at an early age.
As Bryant grew older, movies and drawing became a way for him to escape the realities of a difficult childhood. Bryant’s fascination with drawing was replaced by a love for painting, which was encouraged in him by his mentor Paul Hartley during his years at East Carolina University, where Bryant received his BFA in 1999. While painting, Bryant would listen to the soundtrack of different films, letting himself be completely absorbed in the emotions and images the music evoked and translating the energy into images on his canvas.
Upon graduation, Bryant moved to Baltimore, where he secured an internship with the Mayors Advisory Committee on Art and Culture. It was through this experience that he was introduced to other working, contemporary artists. He further developed his place within the artistic community when he was accepted to the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he received his MFA in May 2004 from the Mount Royal School of Art.
After completing his MFA, Bryant moved to Brooklyn, New York. In addition to developing his own work, Bryant has worked as an artist assistant in a variety of studios, including that of celebrated contemporary artist, Kehinde Wiley. Bryant has received a wide array of press concerning his artwork including most recently Juxtapoz Magazine, NY Arts Magazine, American Artist, Volume XI of Studio Visit Magazine (cover) and Thrasher Magazine. His works are in a variety of notable collections including the Howard Tullman Collection in Chicago, IL and the West and Zimberg Collections in New York, NY.
Jason Bryant is represented by Porter Contemporary in New York City.
A photo, a fingerprint, a signature, and DNA are all methods we use to identify a person, but they are just a means to match a name or face to an individual, not to describe who they are or to translate their identity. For as long as I have been using portraiture as the main focus of my paintings, it is not the identity or recognizable face in which I use to describe my portraits, but more of a blueprint of how I approach portraiture. Many levels go into what makes a person’s portrait. It’s a fabric of many layers, intertwined with a person’s favorite foods, music, and movies. I have used all of these concepts in building my portraits. Stemming from my lifelong love of the cinema, many of the subjects of my paintings are actors and actresses. However, I am not commenting on celebrity or the star system, but I use the celebrity as a hook to bring then viewer in. My work has never focused on the face to describe or examine a portrait. Instead, by cropping or hiding certain features of the face, I add more mystery to the portrait, bringing us to
question who we are and what’s beneath the surface.
In my recent series of paintings, I have incorporated my love of skateboarding to explore themes of portraiture. With vibrant visceral iconic skateboard graphics coming from behind or bursting through the elegant black and white images of various actors and actresses, I’ve merged two of the most important parts of my life, skateboarding and art. I use the traditional format of the portrait, to simultaneously, comment on identity and create portraits that mean so much more than just the individual being painted. With most of my paintings, the figure is the focal point, but when all of the elements of the painting come into play, the work really explores the identity of others, not the subject being painted. There is so much to be learned from a person’s portrait, information that goes well beyond the face.