Jesse Wine’s recent solo exhibition “Both” was an apt reminder that, after the difficult past few years, we now need to rest and daydream in order to imagine other ways of living. The work felt robustly teenage in its melodrama. Wine uses traditional forms of sculpture to capture not the majesty of life but the point at which our bodies start to feel like they’re about to burst out of their boundaries. Among the sculptures on view were two wall pieces showing cross sections of houses and named after the addresses where Wine lived with his parents as he was growing up in Chester, UK. In 2 North Street (all works 2022), a finger pokes out of a window, pointing to—what? another possibility? A bronze foot in 75 Heath Lane lolls down beneath the floor to where the basement should be. Instead of being nestled together in snaking rows as the homes would traditionally be found, the houses—bronze casts from cardboard models—were pulled apart, fixed to the chiffon fabric that covered the brick gallery walls, like artifacts splayed out after an archaeological dig. The cross-sectional sculptures recall the tight little domestic spaces fabricated from our adolescent memories, once felt so viscerally, now a slippery dream. Scale becomes skewed by Wine’s reminiscent sentimentality as well as by the material, the bronze being so at odds with the cardboard it replicates.
Sleep, nature, and idle reverie charged the show. Both is a bronze head resting on its side on the concrete floor, eyes closed sleeping, nodding to Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse, 1910. At the back a section is missing, revealing the piece’s hollow interior. This polished inside reflected movements in the outer world: for instance, gallery visitors’ coats and handbags swishing past. The sculpture is a dreamer trying to file away the activities of the day, composting reality into memories.
Another bronze work, Bobby, is an upright branch that splits unnaturally at its base into a three-legged prong. The legs stretch out, caught in triumphant ta-da pose, and, like many of the other pieces on view, the sculpture takes a natural form yet is characterized to a point of near cartoonishness. At the Modern Institute, Bobby stood in the shadow of G.T. Gangly Tit/ Goodness, Therapy?/ Graciously Taken/ Good Try/ Ginger Twat/ Great, Terrific!/ Green Trees/ Great Times/ Gutted Though/ Getting Tired/ Go To/ Gullible Type, a blaringly bright-red sculpture comprising a pair of tubular legs with knobby knees. Spindly toes grip the edge of the plinth below, the tension causing little voids between each extremity. The legs touch at the behind, then stretch up into amorphous elongated forms making a bid for the sky, reaching up to the realm of the daydream.
The works in “Both” shared an attitude: hopeful ambivalence. Awkwardly thoughtful—like every teenager you have ever met—the exhibition felt as though caught on a precipice, in the moment before adolescent arrogance becomes adulthood, where we first start to become bigger than ourselves and the spaces we grew up in. After we’ve had to endure a time when dreaming seemed impossible, Wine’s nods to Surrealism offered us a way back to the idea that we can start getting ready for something different.