LOS FELIZ—The first exhibition of painter and collage artist Jocelyn Josef’s career took place in a space hidden next door to Los Feliz’s beloved Skylight Books. Despite it being a small pop-up show, Josef’s sincere and intuitive works of art left a lasting impression.
The two-day show, entitled “Journal of a Woman in Love,” was made up of artworks in Josef’s two main styles. Half were painted in a style she invented called “Abstract Pop Squarism,” in which she uses palette knives to layer paint onto a canvas until the entire space is filled with squares. Each squarist piece emanates a unique feeling, depending on the color choices; for example, her pink-and-yellow hued painting “Lady Cakes” gave off a vibe as positive and fun as its title, but the red-and-gray “Meurtre de L’Innocence” (French for “murder of the innocent”) leave an impact that is much more dramatic and strict.
“That’s actually [a reference to] the Bible,” she noted, referring to “Meutre” and the three accompanying paintings hung up along the gallery’s longest wall.
Josef’s pop mixed-media collages, which adorned the other side of the room, take inspiration from much less sombre topics. “Coco” and “Vogue,” two bright collages with intriguing textures, contained recognizable cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse and the Chanel logo.
The first day of the show drew a small crowd, despite not being open to the public. As artworld VIPs, curators, and critics strolled in and out of the gallery over the course of the night, Josef stayed in the background, stealthily observing the scene. She expressed some relief when we got away from the action; we sat down at the lounge area she had set up as a spot to escape the gallery-goers and relax with friends. Given that it was her first-ever art exhibition, I had not expected her to shy away from attention, but her laid back, introverted demeanor made it easy to talk about art and the vulnerable emotions that come with showing it off to the world.
Josef lives and works in Los Angeles, but was born and raised in Hawaii. In her senior year of high school, she won an art contest that helped fund her college tuition. She attended The Art Institute of Seattle and studied Interior Design. Concerning her choice of major, she told Canyon News, “When I was in school, we had to come up with the interior and the exterior of an actual home, but it wasn’t very interesting to me. The walls were more interesting – I wanted to start with the walls first, but a lot of my instructors weren’t cool with that. Interior design faded out, because I started to get turned off.” Indeed, Josef’s current vocation has very little to do with interior design, and a lot to do with walls and surfaces. “These instructors had their own idea of what they wanted to teach us, and I felt like I had a new, fresh outlook…Because they felt that they would teach me more than what I knew, or what I wanted to learn, they discouraged me a lot. So, I think [school] gave me more strength [by making me want] to prove them wrong.”
A turning point in Jocelyn’s life happened when she went on a backpacking trip through Europe. Visiting museums during the trip fueled her decision to become an artist: “I saw the masters, and that was it…After I went to the Picasso museum I knew. ” I asked her if she had any similarly pivotal experiences since moving to Los Angeles, and her answer was no. “When I moved here about two and a half years ago, a month after I set up my studio, I started painting. I painted all the way until last Wednesday, and then right after that, I started preparing the show. I really haven’t had any time to allow Los Angeles to absorb…And to be honest, I don’t really want to be caught up too much.” She revealed to me that she didn’t feel in her element at the exhibition. “I was telling Aubrie [her PR agent], ‘Would you be offended if I wanna go home?…It’s nothing personal, it’s just that if I don’t know everyone in a crowd, I feel uncomfortable.”
Finally, I asked her what her favorite piece in the show was. She said, “I love them all equally. The one that I really love…no one sees that painting unless they know me, or they have been in my home.” She pulled up a picture of it on her phone to show me; it was a stunning piece that I could tell radiated joy, even though I was looking at it on a tiny screen. “[I’ve] been offered a lot of money [for this one], three times, and I’ve said no to each offer, because there’s not enough money…I could never repaint that piece and that emotion, and that’s priceless to me.”
“Journal of a Woman in Love” runs through Saturday, July 25. The show will be open from 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door.