Joseph McNamara / Josué Bessiake Press Release

Joseph McNamara
Josué Bessiake: A Bird’s Last Look
Apr 5 – 27, 2024 at Gallery NAGA

Spring has arrived and Gallery NAGA is pleased to present our third major exhibition of new paintings by Joseph McNamara and in the back room, a show of work by a budding young artist, Josué Bessiake.

Joseph McNamara and Josué Bessiake: A Bird’s Last Look run from April 5 through 27.  A reception for the artists and public will take place on Friday, April 5 from 5 to 7pm with artist remarks at 6pm. 

Joseph McNamara is a New York-based, realist painter whose work—often large-scale—is centered on paintings of the industrial landscape and his relationship to it.  His paintings are painstakingly detailed and can take months and even years, to complete.  McNamara uses photographs as aids, however, the paintings are not “photo-realistic”:  each painting strays away from a strict accounting of the subject matter and takes on a life of its own.McNamara has been based in New York since 1972 when he graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art.  Never comfortable with the world of galleries, McNamara has largely flown under the radar, his work mostly found in private collections.  This exhibition will include paintings McNamara finished in the last three years.

McNamara chooses to work with imagery that carries iconic power.  He sometimes locates his subject matter with an arranged plane trip, sometimes an unplanned trespass on a construction site nearby, and everything in between.  Abandoned Silver Mine Equipment, Butte, Montana depicts just as the title suggests—metal equipment in various states of decline—each surface beautifully rendered and becoming one with the landscape.  Many of his works include items that have been abandoned, unfinished or are waiting to be repurposed or rebuilt.  McNamara captures the disarray and chaos and controls it with the painterly precision of a surgeon. 

McNamara considers the paintings as non-fiction explorations and chooses his subject matter with that perspective.  “The question I get asked most frequently is, ‘How do you choose your subject matter?’ and the answer is pattern recognition. Pattern recognition in this case is distinguishing a distinct visual rhythm in life situations encountered either by choice, which means traveling to pre-determined locations that I know will stimulate my curiosity, or by spontaneous reactions to otherwise apparently unremarkable life circumstances that fit these requirements. In other words, I seek out content that looks like my painting.”

Josué Bessiake is finishing his final year at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA where he will be graduating this spring.  Born in the Midwest to immigrant parents from Coté d’Ivoire, he traveled frequently throughout his youth observing various environments and digesting the world around him. 

This wide exposure and perspective shape the way he encounters the subject matter presented in his exhibition.  Bessiake works primarily from life, using his immediate surroundings as his inspiration: dorm hallways, fellow students, his studio space.  They are all imbued with a sensitivity to light, color, and feeling that comes from someone who has seen a bit of the world and has learned from it.

Bessiake recently completed an artist residency in the Bahamas where he presented an artist talk at the National Gallery.  Running concurrent to his show at Gallery NAGA, Bessiake will also be presenting work at HallSpace Gallery.   Previous to this, he had an exhibition at Gallery Kayafas and was included in a group exhibition, Fresh Faces, at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, Boston.  An example of his work will be featured in this year’s Artrageous!38, Montserrat College of Art’s Annual Auction on April 6.