Collection Artwork
James Esber (born Cleveland, Ohio, 1961)
plasticine on panel
panel size: 106 1/2 x 75 x 1 1/4 in.
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Funds

Installation views

Object Label

James Esber makes paintings and drawings that twist and distort familiar images in American culture. Esber has long been fascinated with how the brain and eyes respond to optical clues, particularly the point at which a distorted image ceases functioning as a representation and turns into something new. He searches the Internet for images and, using Photoshop, manipulates the forms, which he then transfers to paint and other materials. Some works feature a single image, while others present a riotous mashup of disparate images: heroes and villains such as Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, and Osama Bin Laden, or, a range of kitsch, like the Hummel figurine, body builder, and smashed car in this work. In the late 1990s, Esber began experimenting with Plasticine, a type of oil-based modeling clay. The malleable material is applied in hundreds of small patches, creating an undulating relief that emaphasizes the plasticity of his forms.

From the exhibition: One Work (January 25 – June 1, 2014)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

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One Work
James Esber on Bouquet, 2004
Pattern by Jonnea Herman ’18
Inspired by the annual February Tang <3 Students Event
The Tang Pattern Project celebrates the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Organized by Head of Design Jean Tschanz-Egger, past and current Tang Design Interns created patterns inspired by the Museum’s exhibition and event history.