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Flex Warrior
October 8 - November 6, 2021
Opening Reception: Tuesday, October 5, 6-8pm 

Essex Flowers is pleased to present Flex Warrior, a two-person exhibition featuring Kristen Jensen and Emil Robinson.

Martha Graham, storied mother of modern dance, took inspiration for one of her movements, called “Pleadings”,  from her experience seeing Michealangelo's Pietà in the Vatican. Graham said of this movement that "It is a position with the body on the floor, a slight contraction in the body, with the breath in, the arms at the sides cupped open to the sky. Think of Michelangelo's Pietà, or that extraordinary Bernini Ecstasy of St. Theresa. I have seen a photograph of a rock singer with that same look of exaltation."

The trained hand-eye coordination of an artist is not unlike an athlete or dancer’s expert movements. Through practice and rigor, dancers develop ‘procedural’ memories, otherwise called muscle memory. Mirror neurons are brain cells that act in the same way when one performs an action or watches someone do the same action. These neurons, in our premotor cortex, might be why we learn as a species by mimicry, and also why we can feel empathy. We often talk about the psychological, emotional or mental responses to artwork, but how do we begin to describe the physical response?

A basketball playbook is a compilation of tactical diagrams, which start as a simple diagram of the basketball court, and then adds combinations of symbols to describe strategies for play. One could imagine the artist like the basketball coach and players at once, mapping out abstract thought and delivering it in real time through their bodies. It is a mystery how artists take the mental leap to move from abstract thought to an actual physical object. And how does the art viewer, like the basketball player, map out physical meaning through visual absorption?

Flex Warrior, a show title taken from an offensive basketball play in which two point guards distract the opposition while the best shooter takes a 3-point shot, examines what type of muscle memory we build up when we look at sculpture and painting, how mirror neurons affect us when we observe visual art, and what type of empathy we may thus be learning.

Kristen Jensen is a Brooklyn based artist who has exhibited domestically and internationally at Simone Subal, Nicelle Beauchene, Bortolami, the Shanghai Biennial and others. Recent awards include a Lighthouse Works Fellowship, Haystack Open Studio Residency, and St John's Pottery Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship. Jensen was an Abrons AIRspace resident in 2016-2017, an AIR at Shandaken Projects at Storm King in 2016, and led a performative painting and sculpture workshop titled "Enable Uncontrol" as part of the Wanderings & Wonderings series at Storm King Art Center in the fall of 2017. She received her BFA from Syracuse University and her MFA from Hunter College.

Emil Robinson is an artist and educator based in Ohio. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati. Born in Wisconsin, Robinson has spent significant time in Italy and the UK. His passion for early renaissance painting has compelled him to lead numerous European painting and research trips with his students. Presentations of Robinson’s work include a solo exhibition at Waterhouse and Dodd Contemporary in London, a prize-winning painting in the Smithsonian, and exhibitions at Goldfinch Chicago, Harpy Gallery NJ, Kers Gallery in the Netherlands, Studio E Seattle, Novella Gallery NYC, and Anna Zorina Gallery NYC. Robinson has received grants or awards from the Ohio Arts Council, Elizabeth Greenshields, and The Smithsonian amongst others.

Emil Robinson, T-square and Yellow Fabric Arrangement, 2021, oil paint on wood panel, 72 x 60 inches,  Courtesy of Tom Bible and Miriam Hill

Kristen Jensen, Three, 2021, burnished earthenware, new and used towels, crepe backed satin, muslin, metal, and heating elements, 8 x 21 x 48 inches

Emil Robinson, Magenta Bundle, 2021, oil on irregular panel, 11 x 10 inches, Courtesy of Tom Owen and Neil Hensley