Oisín Byrne and Jimmy DeSana
WHEN YOU STEP OVER THE LINE, THE LINE BECOMES YOU.
Oisín Byrne (b 1983) is an Irish artist based in London, UK. His expansive practice includes filmmaking, writing, music, performance and painting. Jimmy DeSana was an artist based in New York (1948–1990) who made photographs and explored the myriad possibilities of the darkroom.
They share a way of working within a queer community that infiltrates and informs their work. Both experiment with the genres of still life and portraiture, but with little recourse to art- historical precedent, intent rather on stepping outside the bounds of these hallowed genres and playing a game without following the rules.
The title of this exhibition is taken from a small publication made to accompany Jimmy DeSana’s exhibition at Pat Hearn Gallery, New York in 1988.
“Who is this YOU, and what is the nature of this border that transcends and defines the subject, all in a single step? Whose desire, whose journey of becoming? Jimmy DeSana’s work embodies a complex reckoning with the space that permeates discourses long thought to be discrete – history, sexuality, politics, and artistic inquiry. His art steps over the line of which he speaks, even as that volatile, ghostlike line fills the soul of his images to the breaking point. DeSana, like his photographs, was a hybrid, an indefinable combination of public and private personae whose camera was not a window, but rather a hall of mirrors that begat a myriad of reflections.”
William J Simmons
Framed: 68.5 x 57.7 Unframed: 48.8 x 37.4cm
Vintage Chromogenic C-print
Framed: 52 x 68.5 /Unframed: 32.3 x 48.8 cm
“I paint portraits of people as a way of spending time with them.”
Oisín Byrne, Studio visit 2023
Oil on board 60 x 60 cm
Oil on Board 50 x 50 cm
“Jimmy took many portraits of his friends in the punk scene at the time and has said that he didn’t differentiate between these photographs and his other work – both were drawn from his life and were a part of his art-making.”
Laurie Simmons, 2022
“I approach these flower paintings not as a critic, but as a glutton – or as Emily Dickinson put it, an inebriate. I ask the paintings to guard me after the climactic spasms have subsided and I’m left in danger of being abandoned by my nectars. These flowers, though demure, would feel en famille in any orgiastic environment; whether bawds or chaperones, they train us to avoid ruining, with the aroma of our very being, the well-mannered yet illicit atmosphere they have fostered. Byrne’s flower paintings embrace you but may not know your name, and if they scrutinized your pedigree or your medical chart, they might cut short the tryst.”
Wayne Koestenbaum, from ‘On Oisin Byrne’s “Cut Flowers”, 2021
Gesso and acrylic on board
100 x 100 cm
Gesso and acrylic on board 100 x 100 cm
“Jimmy De Sana delineated his love of objects and the exemplary lie of photography in an interview with Diego Cortez in 1986: “A photograph is how much you want to lie, how far you want to stretch the truth about the object. And, as photography is always based on real objects, it lends itself, by means of technique or manipulation, to explorations of what may appear to be an absence of reality, balancing on an ambiguous line between concrete and abstract space, between reality and illusion, in a way that no other medium is able to do.” De Sana’s career began as it ended—in the exploration of those various balanced betweens. His catalogue raisonné could be called ‘Juxtaposition, or The Erotic Life of Next to.’”
Bruce Hainley, Artforum, 1988
Vintage Cibachrome print
Print size 35.1 x 27.3 cm
Vintage Cibachrome print
Print size 35.1 x 27.3 cm
“A pastiche of references, his ‘Wronggrong’ of 1987 plays on the title of Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 publication ‘Rongwrong’, of which DeSana had a photocopy. The layout of image and text, however, is modelled on Un Cadavre a pamphlet produced in 1930 by George Bataille and other dissident Surrealists against the movement’s nominative leader Andre Breton, who had published his own pamphlet of the same name six years earlier. Un Cadavre is signed by eleven artists, including Bataille himself, whose article ‘Le Lion castre’ (The Castrated Lion) derides Breton “Here lies Breton the cow old aesthete, false revolutionary with a Christ’s head.” The cover of the pamphlet features a picture of Breton as Christ: a photobooth headshot with a crown of thorns and drops of blood added to the original.
On the cover of ‘Wrongrong’, DeSana replaced Breton’s face with his own; a negative self- portrait in which he wears a crown made of tin foil, mimicking Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe. Below are the words ‘AUTO-PROPHETE’ (Self-proficy), and at the top is a quote pulled from the original Un Cadavre: ‘Il ne faut plus que mort cet homme fasse de la poussiere’ (translated as “now that he’s dead, we should prevent that man from leaving any dust behind him): words Bataille lifted from Breton’s own 1924 broadside. DeSana leaves the meaning of these citations open to interpretation. Do they indicate a renunciation of DeSana’s old self and previous work? Or perhaps he was aligning himself with the transgressive philosophies of Bataille, which had been gaining wider popularity among artists, critics and academics in the United States since the 1970s.”
Drew Sawyer, 2022
Exert from ‘Queering Histories 1984 – 1990’, in the publication Submission which accompanied the exhibition at Brooklyn Museum, New York , 2022.
Vintage Cibachrome print Image size: 34.3 x 26.5 cm Paper size: 35.6 x 28 cm
“I exist only by deduction:
before announcement and after fact. No backdated postjustifications.”
Lyrics from ‘Only by Deduction’ 2022, Written by Oisín Byrne
“To speak in front of any more than one person – two, three, thirty, one hundred – makes me very nervous. But I am sure I could sing to a stadium of thousands. I’m not afraid to sing.
Koestenbaum writes about how singing operates in a separate domain to speech – it is outside of, excluded from, liberated from, Foucauldian avowal and truth telling. One can sing a secret and it remains a secret: to sing is to express not a destination but a process.”
Oisín Byrne Extract from ‘What’s in my handbag’ Published by Bookworks in The Happy Hypocrite 12 (2021) edited by Maria Fusco.
Acrylic and Oil on Board
76 x 76 cm
“Do these people know what they want to do? The very word ‘submission’ contains the paradox of wanting and not wanting. And this ambivalent position can only be maintained by a double ignorance of not knowing what you want to do and knowing not what you don’t want to do. Can this ignorance survive the impersonal click of the camera? Can a paradox exist in an age of total confrontation?”
William S. Burroughs, from the introduction of Jimmy DeSana’s Submission, 1979
Oil on linen
130 x 92 cm