James Brittingham 

Return to Artist List



What is my work about?

I make collages because it’s easy to get ideas for collages from anecdotes – something I like and something I hate converge in somebody else’s image or story or idea, and I have a problem that I can sit with. I usually just say whatever the fuck I want, so art gives me a way to say the things I wish I wanted to say.


Artist Statement

My work comes out of an attempt to account for conflicting desires and attractions: imagining fantastical configurations of cruelty and kindness, ideology and affinity.

The first image “Never Suffered” comes out of hearing about a book, which posits Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol as two sides of a coin that prefigures any number of developments in American culture. I thought right away that must be a very boring book, and that the author probably felt a real surge of enthusiasm when he decided to write it. I thought I could make a painting that could do the more important work of distilling and extending the sense of anticipation that might accompany the initial suspicion that all the sexiest of issues of the day might be best understood by looking at the life and work of two very tragic, sexily abnormal men of genius. Their images (Michael’s face, Andy’s torso) are triangulated by a James Baldwin quote that celebrates artistic authority, in a way which I want to believe, not for the sake of my own work, but for the sake of my relationship to Baldwin’s. The painting became a meditation on the ways that aesthetic, and cultural actions help us develop our expectations for other people.

Like Michael and Andy, otters also have a sui generous level of affect, and like Michael at least, otters have a capacity for cruelty (see truthaboutotters.com for background) that is confusing and frightening. I try to paint in a cruel way (ornamentation devolving into vandalism) not so much out of malice but because I think your ability to bare cruelty has a lot to do with how beautiful a person you are, and with the exception of the execution squad in “They Left Us No Choice” (image #4) most of us are able to judge otters by their best action, not their worst.

Images 2-8 are part of a much larger ongoing series of paintings in which I which I am attempting to triangulate single concepts from Bracha Ettinger’s Matrixial Border Space, with an otter, with an image (often a depiction of a woman from the canon of western art) which reminds me of a moment in my encounter culture and society, which occurred in a way that echoes or compliments to complex and subtle stages of the emergent subjectivity and language acquisition, for which Ettinger’s concepts were invented in the first place. Narratives of cultural progress (the absorption of the avant-garde into democratic public space (Image #7), the advent of electricity (Image #4, again), the teleological schema of ‘art-history’ – are juxtaposed with the eternal childhood, the ageless ceaseless cycle of wanting and exhaustion that one recognizes in a wild animal. Almost all the paintings have a kind of radial symmetry.  

 Begun a year or so before the otter paintings Images (9-16) are attempt to identify the viscitudes of the five beautiful maxims with which eve Sedgewick attempts to describe “Paranoid” methodologies. I’ve been accuse of being paranoid and it hurts, so when I found a book the offered to break it down in a more matter-a-fact way that I had, I was hoping that it could change my life.





MFA Painting Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University


BFA  Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art


Group Exhibitions


Data Trash: I-20 Gallery, New York, NY

On Walls: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

Bruncennial 2012: 159 Bleecker str. New York, NY

MFA Show : Mason Gross Galleries New Brunswick, NJ

A Hanging: Times, Berlin

Why Don’t You Do Right? Café Warsaw, Berlin

Best of 2012: Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY



Rutgers Catskills Show: Catskill, Ny

College Art Association Show: New York, NY



Live/Work: LaMama Gallery New York, NY

Gray Days: Jack Tilton Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Gradation: Arte Portugal, Lisbon


Professional Experience

Fall 2014

Instructor – Bruce High Quality Foundation, “Painting – Yes, And . . .” “Collage and The Grammar of images”  Directing


2012 – Present

Part-Time Lecturer  – Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University, BFA Thesis Exhibition



Artist in Residence – Focus Health Center, Working with a team of high school and middle school students to paint a panoramic mural in the waiting room of the FOCUS clinic in Newark.


Graduate Teaching Assistant – Mason Gross School of Art Rutgers University, BFA Thesis Exhibition



Activities Specialist, Drawing Fundamentals



Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation

Graffiti Art/Mural Painting KAPPA VII & MS72 (Middle Schools)



Guest Lecturer New York University, Advanced Silk-Screening