Before the commodification of the internet, it was a stranger place to navigate. To find the perfect image required looking long and hard across the surface web. Images weren't as readily available as they are now through popular search engines or social media platforms. In 2004, the artist, Jeanette Hayes, started using Google and offbeat German and Japanese search engines to look for pictures she had never seen before. "I thought I'd googled so much, if you told me a word, I bet I'd know what the first images were," she tells Creators. "I thought I had the internet memorized." When she came across an image she liked, she would archive the picture on one of the many hard drives she keeps. Today, an artist known primarily for her image heavy paintings of popular anime characters laced with high art history references, Hayes uses her databases of internet imagery to create thematic drawings of what she calls, the web's "abundance."
In Jeanettically Modified, her new solo exhibition at Romeo gallery, puts on view ten new works on paper that pull from Hayes' image archive. "Normally when I have my paintings shows, I usually have some drawings but they are always the side dish," Hayes explains. "Romeo, a works-on-paper space, is the perfect opportunity to have a show focused on my drawings. I was able to go all in." Hayes says that the drawings on view freed her from the specificity of painting. "I can make ten paintings that all have the same idea but these drawings have like one billion ideas. If these were painting it might be way TMI." She admits, "I'm a hoarder of imagery and I would like to make my paintings more like my drawings. My drawings are entirely just about abundance which is very easily related to the internet or me as a person. Each one of these drawings have different themes but they are still chaotic and sporadic."
To create works like Draw me like one of your--draw me like a girl, or the title drawing, Jeanettically Modified, which features the artist recast as the Vitruvian Man, Hayes begins with a collage. Using images from her archive, which, she estimates, contains hundreds of thousands of images, scenes she observed IRL, and pictures she pulls from her own imagination, Hayes conceptualizes her drawing. Then she starts putting pencil to paper, the graphite providing an immediacy that allows her to organically develop the work. Sriracha on Everything, a drawing dotted with red accents, for instance, was made after Hayes red nail polish rubbed off on the work. She went with it, and the result is a drawing that features Hollywood corporate iconography, angels, anime girls, a centaur and idealized greco-roman nudes. "In these drawings there are so many messages," she says, "you will find things in them for a long time, which is something I like in art personally."
Yo dawg I heard you like games, so we put some games in your games so you can game while you're gaming features the many different elements that go into playing games. There's a gamer playing a device plugged into her TV, a Nintendo Game Boy floating in the air, a woman sitting on the ground cover in skin that resembles a zigzag puzzle, a woman filling in a crossword puzzle that is attached to a man's head, chess pieces assembled on a checkered board, a Pokémon, a brain that has been gamed, and several queens of hearts in the background. The message, an obvious one, is that people play too many games in relationships. Other works, like Holding Court, is about architecture, while Issa War is about fear and human nature. All of Hayes' works on paper are loaded with at first glance might seem like playful images but linger on them, and they reveal something darker, more sinister about the human condition.
"I'm not a simple person, I don't like simplicity," she says. "I love Times Square and being inundated with too much and having to deal with that. I like having one million people in my life, I like a lot." The New York-based artist adds, "It's sometimes a mess but in drawing I can make sense of it."
Jeanettically Modified continues through June 18 at Romeo. Click here, for more information.