Jordan Betten isn’t afraid to follow his instincts—even if they lead to ripping apart his own paintings. In the pursuit of something beautiful, the Miami artist finds everything can be reimagined anew. “I’m never content,” he confesses. “I’m always trying new things. And I always want the next piece to be better than the one before.”
To wit, Betten’s gut has never led him astray. In quick succession, he has amassed an expansive body of work that includes abstract paintings, found-object sculpture and his signature collages, made from the slashed pieces of paintings. The artist’s work has found an eager home, with representation at GGA Gallery and commissions from Wynwood Walls and Faena Art.
This experimentation stems from Betten’s past life as an artisanal designer in New York, where his eclectic combination of materials such as snakeskin, crystals and feathers attracted the likes of fashion editors and rock stars. But the familiar itch to reinvent became too strong once he moved to Miami in 2016, when he decided to fully commit to painting. Self-taught, the artist intuitively translated the materiality of his previous craft into his new practice. “A flat surface isn’t so interesting to me,” he explains. “When I was working with leathers, I always mixed different textures together. So I wanted to bring that into my painting style.”
This tactility plays out in Betten’s abstract paintings, for which he uses brushes, palette knives and his hands to make energetic gestures. He prefers oils, as they “have so much texture and depth,” he says. “Different viscosities allow me to really move paint around.” The artist’s sculptures capture the same sense of motion, incorporating unusual materials.
Blurring both mediums, Betten’s collages came about as a way to repurpose test paintings he had produced. Stiffened with old paint, the canvas took on a sculptural quality that could be manipulated like leather, a discovery that led to a new creative process. He first paints the main canvas to establish the movement and color of the work, then weaves together the ripped canvas strips twisted into different shapes, from sharp, tight rolls to gentle ribbons falling into peaks and valleys. The artist paints over these complex layers, creating compositions that leap off the surface.
This freestyle nature means Betten can never be certain of the final result. And that’s just fine with him. “I like the element of surprise,” the artist says. “When those accidents happen, it’s magical.”