Jesse Bransford’s work to date represents an ever-sharpening focus on Art’s relationship to Magic. Bransford believes that this relationship represents a crucial space for a contemporary reconsideration of what it is to be Human. This exhibition focuses especially on two Magical systems: Icelandic magic as seen through contemporary seiðr practices, and Indian yantra forms, especially as described in the Mantramahodadhi (the “Ocean of Mantras”). While seemingly as far flung as two systems of thought could be, both geographically and culturally, the magic they both profess share striking similarities, relying heavily on visual meditation forms and so-called sacred geometry. Both are living traditions that recognize cultural overlaps and the site of consciousness as the generator of what is considered ‘reality’. Bransford’s aim in working with these two traditions is to draw out syncretic overlaps between the forms and to create synergies between the magical intentions of both systems.
Jesse Bransford, Hills Become the Sun, 2015, 4 x 6 1/2”, Watercolor and graphite on paper.
The easiest access to the works presented are to realize that all magic practice involves three active categories:
Verbal: A series of vocalizations, sometimes intelligible, often in alternate languages or pure vocalizations. The project’s title, Nomina Magica (Latin: magical names) recognizes and draws attention to the possible powers of words, names and speech.
Somatic: The body used as a vehicle for magical energies, usually in the form of ritual postures (e.g. yoga). These postures activate actual space and ground the event/ritual in the place of the ritual. Both the artist and viewer are intended to be implicated in this dynamic.
Material: The theory of correspondences states that every thing has a symbolic meaning or lateral relation. Blood is akin to fire, for example. Every material can be likened to another thing or idea. The materials deployed to ends in this exhibition operate on many levels: color, tone and form, as well as sign, symbol and metaphor.
Recognizing the historically charged and magical aura of Seligmann’s farm, Bransford has not only made art objects that function magically, but is also explicitly making magical gestures that function artistically. If successful, the overall installation creates a series of spaces, portals and windows into other ways, magical ways, of experiencing art.
Jesse Bransford is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work is exhibited internationally at venues including The Carnegie Museum of Art, the UCLA Hammer Museum, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center and the CCA Wattis Museum among others. He holds degrees from the New School for Social Research (BA), Parsons School of Design (BFA) and Columbia University (MFA). An associate professor of art at New York University and the chair of the Department of Art and Art Professions, Bransford's work has been involved with belief and the visual systems it creates since the 1990s. Early research into color meaning and cultural syncretism led to the occult traditions in general and the work of John Dee and Henry Cornelius Agrippa specifically. He has lectured widely on his work and the topics surrounding his work and is the co-organizer of the biennial Occult Humanities Conference in New York.