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JJ Manford at Harper’s


The 1970 song “Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is a tender tune about how a house becomes a home. The chorus rings out: “Our house is a very, very, very fine house / With two cats in the yard / Life used to be so hard / Now everything is easy ’cause of you.” Painter JJ Manford’s solo show at Harper’s takes its name from the song, and also features a cat here and there. His works picture inviting cozy interiors, the kind of homes where you might imagine a lazy Sunday with the record player spinning and the sun filtering through the curtains in just the right way. 

The painted interiors are dense with perspectival corners and nooks, patterned rugs, furniture, colorful paintings, and windows that look out to sun-drenched landscapes. Manford’s color palette is equally inviting, with warm underpaintings on burlap and canvas giving the works an internal glow and an inviting texture. The colors seem to break down in places into fervent Fauvist hues, with art history quoted throughout the works. 

Manford’s titles, like Interior with Matisse and Mose Tolliver Inspired Pillow, give us clues to his references and cribbed artworks. Yet the artist takes liberties in his renderings; neither the particulars of the interior spaces nor the artworks he features are totally representational. Instead, Manford’s interiors can become dream-like spaces that muse on playful possibilities. In one work, Interior with Sonic and JJ Manford Rug, a Sonic the Hedgehog figurine appears jarringly in an otherwise modernist interior, a playful reminder that our house can be whatever we make it.

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Photo: JJ Manford, Our House (installation view) (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Harper’s, Los Angeles.