Jesse Morsberger (b.1994, Brooklyn, NY) is an American contemporary artist living and working in Los Angeles, California. He received his BFA from SUNY Purchase College in 2016.
In RARE CANDY, Morsberger digests Pokémon’s early, Game Boy worlds and
produces not painted recreations of 8-bit graphics, but a visual language and
compositional spirit capable of something truly wondrous: of recreating the experience
of those early Pokémon games, and the immersive awe so central to childhood.
Real, immediate feeling is how Morsberger’s paintings soar above the pangs and
pale, denuded hues of nostalgia. After all, how could we long for lost time when we feel
it—impossibly, magically—rushing back to us?
These paintings, heroically, save their Pokémon from global ubiquity. The Pikachu of “Route 1” are plural; none of them represent that singular, mascot-cum-salesmouse of the 100-billion dollar Pokémon Company. With their bolt-yellow tails catching the sun, these Pikachu running together across a verdant field are simply the fauna of a digital world Morsberger paints so insightfully that it becomes real.
This approach invites us to wonder where the Pikachu of “Route 1” are going, why Ghastly (“Cemetery”) smiles over headstones, how a doomed Rattata (“Aerial Ace”) remains so stoic in Pidgeotto’s claws, or what the lone Charmeleon in “Overlooking Wild Zone” is feeling as it looks out from a shadowed cliff top with contemplative ambivalence. But we are not meant to wonder for the sake of producing answers. We’re challenged to see that these questions, based in wonder and imagination, have resupplied to the Pokemon the interiority and frisson they once possessed. Morsberger’s human figures, too, attest to this enlivening power. Pulled from the pixel art of Pokémon Gold & Silver, they live in crowded scenes bursting with activity. Distant mountains echo blue rivers. Blue rivers dash across lush fields and forests. Shade and shadows blaze ecstatic with motes of light, catching on boughs and grasses, wings and limbs, leaves, eaves, horns, hat brims, houses, and clouds. The human figures living among all of this become avatars, reminding us of ourselves as we once were, so similarly open to the teeming life of imaginary worlds.
RARE CANDY takes its title from Pokémon’s in-game item of the same name. In the Pokémon games, to feed a Rare Candy to a Pokémon is to promptly raise its level. No roads to walk, no battles to fight, no experience to painstakingly accrue. The Rare Candy is a pill without bitterness, a reward without hardship. It is gain, unaccompanied by that pain that our world so often insists on. Rare Candy is rare in the Pokémon world and rarer, still, in what we call “real life.”
January 28, 2023
January 29, 2023