Jesper Just has become internationally renowned for works which explore the ambiguous territory of gender, desire, relationships and identity. Early films explored and circumvented the complicated representations of masculinity in Hollywood cinema and throughout popular culture, and challenged viewers’ expectations of those conventions. In The Lonely Villa (2004), a scenario unfolds of several men sitting in silence, anticipating the phones in front of them to ring. An older man answers his phone to find the singing voice belonging to a younger man across the darkened room. The call turns into an emotionally fraught duet of a 1930s love song, and Just leaves it completely open-ended whether the protagonists are father and son, or if they are lovers.
In the brochure text for his solo project at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2006, Hannah Barry describes Just’s lush, cinematic productions: “For each film Just assembles a grand production, engaging trained actors and singers, sound and lighting engineers, and camera operators…He employs mechanisms more commonly associated with lavish ‘motion picture’ productions for cinema: notably his trompe l'oeil cinematographic vision, manifested in elaborate chiaroscuro combinations of light and half-light; tight control of changes in perspective and arrangement of the cast in majestic tableaux vivants; and a miniaturist's hypersensitivity in committing human emotions to film, his precise handling of the camera capturing the subtleties of sadness, melancholy, and grief as well as of prolonged expressionlessness and impassivity.”
In more recent films, starting with A Vicious Undertow (2008), and thereafter Sirens of Chrome (2009-2010), and This Nameless Spectacle (2011), Just has also explored and addressed constructs of femininity rarely addressed in popular cinema. In 2013, Just premiered Intercourses, a multi-channel installation at the Danish Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in which Just complicated the idea of identity and nationality, using a Chinese replica city of Paris as the main character. Just explains, “I’ve worked in the past with the idea of architecture performing, with a building or structure as a main performer, a main protagonist. And here there was the possibility of working with a whole city. I was thinking about ways to make the city the protagonist or mediator between these characters, making them connect via the architecture. I wanted to explore how you could take something as superficial as this architecture and then turn it into something connecting humans.”
Jesper Just (born 1974, Copenhagen, Denmark) is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at such diverse and international institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI; the Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL; La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain; S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark, and Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne (MAC/VAL), Val-de-Marne, France. Just represented Denmark at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (2013). His work has been included in group exhibitions such as El Grito, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castille y Leon, Spain (2011); Detroit, Kunsthalle Wien, Austria (2010); Play - Film and Video, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2009); Made Up, Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, United Kingdom (2008); the Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art, Glasgow, UK (2008); Ars06: Sense of the Real, KIASMA, Helsinki, Finland (2006); and Gender Bender, Galleria D’Arte Moderna Bologna, Bologna, Italy (2005). Just’s work is included in public collections such as the Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishoj, Denmark; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; Tate Modern, London, UK; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Jesper Just lives and works in New York, NY.