Jesse Krimes: Apokaluptein16389067: II
By Laura Storck
As a native Philadelphian, I’d never visited the Eastern State Penitentiary, which is attributable to my own design as well as lack of desire. Known as America’s most historic prison, Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous prison in the world due to its grand architecture and strict disciplinary practices. Notions of such harsh discipline, imprisonment, and being confined to small spaces renders fear and paralysis in my mind. However, after learning about the May First Friday unveiling of several artists at the ESP, this art enthusiast felt it was a perfect time to make the guarded effort to see this well-known space.
I was especially intrigued after reading about the installation ofJesse Krimes, entitled Apokaluptein 16389067: II. Jesse is a Philadelphia-based artist, who was indicted by the U.S. government on non-violent controlled substance charges, and served a 70-month federal prison term. While serving his term, Jesse produced a breathtaking and evocative 39-panel landscape on bedsheets. His process is just as magnificent: Jesse transferred cutout images from the New York Times using a plastic spoon and hairgel he had purchased from the commissary. He used the spoon to press the sheet and hairgel onto the newspaper cutout which resulted in an inverse image on the sheet. Lastly, the images were blended together with color pencil. With the help of prison guards who had supported his work, he was able to store the sheets in a prison locker before having each panel mailed home piece by piece upon completion. Jesse kept a running dialogue in his mind of each of the sheets, as he didn’t see the entire grouping of panels until his release.
In it’s original iteration,
This installation is a brilliant collage of color, form, and text. The texture is reminiscent of decoupage or encaustic painting. In their entirety, the panels serve as an artistic time capsule.
The original title, Apokaluptein16389067, references the Greek origin of the word apocalypse which means to reveal; by definition, it is a cataclysmic event. The numbers reference the artist’s Federal Bureau of Prisons identification number. Of all the works on display at this First Friday event, I felt especially compelled to see this exhibit as I am both amazed and in awe of the power of human resilience. Last year, I read wonderful meme that has since stuck with me: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity”. Jesse Krimes‘ work is the epitome and personification of this proverb. I hold much admiration for his creative self-motivation in making this impressively transcendent work of art during his own personal apocalypse.
Written and photographed by Laura Storck
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