Artist and Activist Jesse Krimes, Whose Work Reflects His Experience While Incarcerated, Has Joined Jack Shainman 

Krimes also heads the Center for Art and Advocacy, a new non-profit dedicated to mentoring justice-impacted creatives. 

Artist Jesse Krimes. Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery.

Artist Jesse Krimes, whose multidisciplinary practice deals with themes of carcerality and criminal justice, has joined Jack Shainman’s roster, the gallery announced today.  

Krimes’s textiles, sculptures, drawings, and other works have been shaped by his own encounters with the prison system, having served a multi-year sentence for drug possession after graduating from art school in 2009. The experience, he said in a statement, “radically altered my perception of society.”

While incarcerated, Krimes continued to make art. He encouraged others to do so too, securing art supplies, holding workshops, and forming collectives. His efforts continued after his release, and today his practice encompasses both art and activism.

In May, Krimes was named the inaugural executive director of the Center for Art and Advocacy, a new nonprofit dedicated to mentoring justice-impacted creatives. The organization, which was established with a major grant from Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund, is an outgrowth of the Right of Return Fellowship, which Krimes cofounded in 2017. 

“My work explores social mechanisms of power and control, informed by more than eight years I spent in state and federal prisons, an experience that radically altered my perception of society,” Krimes explained. “I am particularly interested in employing latent material language and critically recontextualizing idealized beauty to draw viewers into an intimate examination of more visceral or challenging content, interrogate value systems, and sensitize people to the cruelty of mass criminalization and incarceration.” 

Installation view of Jesse Krimes, Apokaluptein 16389067 (2010–2013) in the exhibition "Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration." Courtesy of MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

Installation view of Jesse Krimes, Apokaluptein 16389067 (2010–2013) in the exhibition “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Courtesy of MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

Shainman said his introduction to his newest artist’s work came through a 2020 New York Times review of the Nicole R. Fleetwood-curated exhibition “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at MoMA PS1. The article made special mention of Krimes’s monumental landscape, Apokaluptein 16389067, which the then-incarcerated artist made by transfer-printing magazine and newspaper images onto more than three dozen prison-issued bedsheets. 

With the help of fellow inmates, the sheets were mailed out one-by-one. Only after his release in 2014 was Krimes able to assemble them into the continuous, 40-foot-long composition that he had envisioned behind bars.  

The artwork “absolutely stunned me,” Shainman said. “I knew then that his deeply personal vision was unique.” 

More than most gallery rosters, Shainman’s has a cohesive identity. Of the 38 artists the dealer represents, many—like Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Hank Willis Thomas—make work about the politics of identity and place.

Krimes, Shainman said, will fit right in. “Jesse’s practice is incredibly powerful and important, speaking to political issues that are especially timely. But beyond that, his work speaks of issues that are distinctly individual to him,” the dealer said.

“There are so many high-caliber artists out there, but as a gallery, we strive to seek out those with their own unique perspective. It is much rarer to find an artist who can both showcase their own unmistakable vision as well as fully master their chosen medium, and Jesse certainly fits those parameters and exceeds expectations simultaneously,” Shainman concluded. 


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