In 1985, Jimmy DeSana produced a set of 30 Cibachrome prints for a collector. On view at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City until February 18, “Jimmy DeSana: Late Work” collects these “lost” prints, which spent the past 30 years in an envelope and have never been shown before. In the 1970s and ’80s, DeSana was part of the flourishing East Village art scene along with contemporaries including Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and close friend Laurie Simmons, and his work was the subject of more than a dozen solo shows during his short life—he died in 1990 at age 40, after contracting AIDS. Lately his work has been the subject of renewed interest, with shows at Salon 94 in New York City and Aperture’s publication in 2015 of Suburban, a collection of nudes in mundane settings.
“Late Work” collects a range of his surreal still lifes, nudes, self portraits and experimental collages, all made in his distinctly saturated color palette, produced by gel-covered tungsten lights. Where earlier images often had a distinctly sexual edge, the images here are sparer and emptier. As he wrote, he saw this selection as a reflection of the time. “If I could do a show that confused people so much, that was so ambiguous that they didn’t know what to think, but they felt sort of sickened by it and also entertained, then for me that would be the moment that we’re going through right now.”