Esteban Jefferson

Petit Palais

November 14, 2019–January 11, 2020 East Gallery
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A large painting installed on a wall in the gallery's foyer. To the right of the wall is an entrance to the adjacent room with faux-marble floors. The painting, Billetterie, depicts a sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap, placed on a visitors service desk in the rotunda of the Petit Palais museum in Paris. To the right of the bust is a Black man in a security guard's uniform (suit and tie) leaning against the desk. The man's face and the bust are realistically rendered, whereas the man's body, along with the desk and the rest of the background, including a sign that reads “Billetterie” and a large column and a short case of stairs to the right of the desk, are rendered in soft, light washes of sienna and blue.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Two large paintings hung above a faux marble floor: Entrée on the left wall is significantly larger and depicts a realistic sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed behind a visitor's services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and is realistically rendered. The scene also includes a visitor with their back turned, a computer on the desk, and museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is rendered in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white. The painting on the wall to the right is titled Gratuite.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Another installation view of the gallery with the faux marble floor. Three paintings are installed, Entrée on the left wall, Collections Permanentes on the right, and Gratuite on the furthest back wall. Gratuite depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard's face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( A frontal view of the painting Collections Permanentes, which depicts a scene at a visitors service desk in the Petit Palais museum in Paris. A visitor stands in front of the desk, with their back to the viewer, while a museum employee sits behind the desk with a computer. Just above a sign above the employee, we see the top of the head of a sculpture of Black figure, his lower face obscured by signage. The visible part of the face is meticulously and realistically rendered. The other figures and objects are only partially sketched in or implied, in graphite and soft washes of sienna and umber.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( Another view of the room with the faux marble floor, this one with Collections Permanentes to the left and Entrée to the right. In the background between them, placed on the floor before large shaded windows, are two CRT monitors that are stacked. On the monitors a 2-channel video work, Petit Palais plays in a loop. In the top monitor we see a video of a scene similar to those depicted in the paintings, with the Black bust on a front desk of a museum. On the bottom screen is an image of a wall label, too small in this picture to be legible.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A close up of two stacked CRT monitors playing Petit Palais, a two-channel video. In the top monitor is a blurry video of a grande hall of a museum, lined with marble statues. On the bottom screen is the title credit for the video, with the Petit Palais museum logo.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020

Esteban Jefferson, Gratuite, 2019 Oil on linen 42 x 60 in. ( A closer frontal view of Gratuite, which depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard's face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)

Esteban Jefferson

Gratuite, 2019

Oil on linen

42 × 60 in.

Esteban Jefferson, Entrée, 2019 Oil on linen 76 x 120 in. (A closer frontal view of Entrée, which depicts a bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed on a visitor's services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and fully rendered in a realistic manner. The scene also includes a figure standing before the desk with their back to the viewer, a computer, and a maze of museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is vaguely rendered or implied in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white.)

Esteban Jefferson

Entrée, 2019

Oil on linen

76 × 120 in.

Press Release

White Columns is pleased to announce ‘Petit Palais’ the debut solo exhibition by the New York-based artist Esteban Jefferson.

Jefferson’s exhibition, presented as a mise-en-scene staged on a faux marble floor, comprises four recent paintings and a two-channel video work. The exhibition centers around Jefferson’s ongoing consideration of the Beaux Arts-style rotunda of the Petit Palais museum in Paris.

Working from his own photographic sources and video footage – shot during repeated visits to the museum – Jefferson has created a complex body of work centered around issues of race, identity and the legacies of colonialism, whilst simultaneously interrogating the methodologies of display and the institutional narratives within the museum itself.

Jefferson’s paintings describe the liminal space of the museum’s lobby with all of its institutional ‘clutter’: video screens, computer terminals, reception desks, public signage, and visitor stanchions. His paintings focus upon and privilege the serendipitous visual ‘encounters’ between the museum’s employees and visitors and two sculptural busts of African subjects that are on permanent display at the margins of the rotunda. (The museum’s wall labels for the busts identify neither their maker nor their date of creation, suggesting only a generic title ‘Buste d’Africaine’ and that they are possibly from the late 19th Century.)

Formally Jefferson’s paintings oscillate between areas of provisional mark-making and areas of intense, almost hyper-realistic focus. The process of their making remains fully evident. This aesthetic ‘push-pull’, a sense of being simultaneously in- and out-of-focus is echoed and amplified in the hand-held, ambient documentary video footage Jefferson presents alongside the paintings. About ‘Petit Palais’ Jefferson has stated that one of his intentions is:

“ … to open up a dialogue with the museum, to rethink the way the busts are presented, moving them into a more central space, with updated and more fully-researched labels … As it is now, the busts occupy the position they always have: kind of art, kind of decor, valuable but not treated as having the same value as everything else in the museum. The irony to me is that the busts are, in my opinion, the most interesting works on display in the Petit Palais.”

Working both within and around the established histories of painting Jefferson has embarked on a highly ambitious and rigorous project, one that simultaneously explores and expands the limits of the medium, in turn creating a truly idiosyncratic and aestheticized form of institutional critique.

Esteban Jefferson (b. 1989) received his MFA in 2019 and his BA in 2011, both from Columbia University, New York. His work has been included in numerous group shows, most recently in the 2019 exhibition ‘Vernacular Interior’ at Hales Gallery, New York (curated by Adeze Wilford.)

For further information, contact: info@whitecolumns.org

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A large painting installed on a wall in the gallery's foyer. To the right of the wall is an entrance to the adjacent room with faux-marble floors. The painting, Billetterie, depicts a sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap, placed on a visitors service desk in the rotunda of the Petit Palais museum in Paris. To the right of the bust is a Black man in a security guard's uniform (suit and tie) leaning against the desk. The man's face and the bust are realistically rendered, whereas the man's body, along with the desk and the rest of the background, including a sign that reads “Billetterie” and a large column and a short case of stairs to the right of the desk, are rendered in soft, light washes of sienna and blue.)
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Two large paintings hung above a faux marble floor: Entrée on the left wall is significantly larger and depicts a realistic sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed behind a visitor's services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and is realistically rendered. The scene also includes a visitor with their back turned, a computer on the desk, and museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is rendered in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white. The painting on the wall to the right is titled Gratuite.)
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Another installation view of the gallery with the faux marble floor. Three paintings are installed, Entrée on the left wall, Collections Permanentes on the right, and Gratuite on the furthest back wall. Gratuite depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard's face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( A frontal view of the painting Collections Permanentes, which depicts a scene at a visitors service desk in the Petit Palais museum in Paris. A visitor stands in front of the desk, with their back to the viewer, while a museum employee sits behind the desk with a computer. Just above a sign above the employee, we see the top of the head of a sculpture of Black figure, his lower face obscured by signage. The visible part of the face is meticulously and realistically rendered. The other figures and objects are only partially sketched in or implied, in graphite and soft washes of sienna and umber.)
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( Another view of the room with the faux marble floor, this one with Collections Permanentes to the left and Entrée to the right. In the background between them, placed on the floor before large shaded windows, are two CRT monitors that are stacked. On the monitors a 2-channel video work, Petit Palais plays in a loop. In the top monitor we see a video of a scene similar to those depicted in the paintings, with the Black bust on a front desk of a museum. On the bottom screen is an image of a wall label, too small in this picture to be legible.)
Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A close up of two stacked CRT monitors playing Petit Palais, a two-channel video. In the top monitor is a blurry video of a grande hall of a museum, lined with marble statues. On the bottom screen is the title credit for the video, with the Petit Palais museum logo.)
Esteban Jefferson, Gratuite, 2019 Oil on linen 42 x 60 in. ( A closer frontal view of Gratuite, which depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard's face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)
Esteban Jefferson, Entrée, 2019 Oil on linen 76 x 120 in. (A closer frontal view of Entrée, which depicts a bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed on a visitor's services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and fully rendered in a realistic manner. The scene also includes a figure standing before the desk with their back to the viewer, a computer, and a maze of museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is vaguely rendered or implied in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A large painting installed on a wall in the gallery’s foyer. To the right of the wall is an entrance to the adjacent room with faux-marble floors. The painting, Billetterie, depicts a sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap, placed on a visitors service desk in the rotunda of the Petit Palais museum in Paris. To the right of the bust is a Black man in a security guard’s uniform (suit and tie) leaning against the desk. The man’s face and the bust are realistically rendered, whereas the man’s body, along with the desk and the rest of the background, including a sign that reads “Billetterie” and a large column and a short case of stairs to the right of the desk, are rendered in soft, light washes of sienna and blue.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Two large paintings hung above a faux marble floor: Entrée on the left wall is significantly larger and depicts a realistic sculptural bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed behind a visitor’s services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and is realistically rendered. The scene also includes a visitor with their back turned, a computer on the desk, and museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is rendered in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white. The painting on the wall to the right is titled Gratuite.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (Another installation view of the gallery with the faux marble floor. Three paintings are installed, Entrée on the left wall, Collections Permanentes on the right, and Gratuite on the furthest back wall. Gratuite depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard’s face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( A frontal view of the painting Collections Permanentes, which depicts a scene at a visitors service desk in the Petit Palais museum in Paris. A visitor stands in front of the desk, with their back to the viewer, while a museum employee sits behind the desk with a computer. Just above a sign above the employee, we see the top of the head of a sculpture of Black figure, his lower face obscured by signage. The visible part of the face is meticulously and realistically rendered. The other figures and objects are only partially sketched in or implied, in graphite and soft washes of sienna and umber.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 ( Another view of the room with the faux marble floor, this one with Collections Permanentes to the left and Entrée to the right. In the background between them, placed on the floor before large shaded windows, are two CRT monitors that are stacked. On the monitors a 2-channel video work, Petit Palais plays in a loop. In the top monitor we see a video of a scene similar to those depicted in the paintings, with the Black bust on a front desk of a museum. On the bottom screen is an image of a wall label, too small in this picture to be legible.)

Esteban Jefferson, installation view, 2019-2020 (A close up of two stacked CRT monitors playing Petit Palais, a two-channel video. In the top monitor is a blurry video of a grande hall of a museum, lined with marble statues. On the bottom screen is the title credit for the video, with the Petit Palais museum logo.)

Esteban Jefferson, Gratuite, 2019 Oil on linen 42 × 60 in. ( A closer frontal view of Gratuite, which depicts a closer view of the bust of the Black figure in a head wrap from Entrée placed on the visitors service desk of the Petit Palais museum. Behind the bust is a security officer at a computer. Raw, unpainted canvas boarders the image on the left, right and bottom edges, with graphite outlines implying columns and signage. Again the bust and the guard’s face are meticulously rendered, while the rest of the space and objects in the painting are only implied by sketches and patches of soft pink, sienna, or dark umber.)

Esteban Jefferson, Entrée, 2019 Oil on linen 76 × 120 in. (A closer frontal view of Entrée, which depicts a bust of a Black figure in a head wrap displayed on a visitor’s services counter at Petit Palais museum in Paris. The bust is placed at the center of the image, partially obscured by public signage, and fully rendered in a realistic manner. The scene also includes a figure standing before the desk with their back to the viewer, a computer, and a maze of museum stanchions leading up to the desk. Everything but the sculpture is vaguely rendered or implied in soft, light washes of sienna, blue and white.)