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Jennifer Bolande: Persistence of Vision

May 21, 2023May 21, 2023

"As audience to the world, the objective is to receive as many messages as possible: locating an appropriate rhythm, distance, and angle. Certain things only make sense at this moment, from this angle, others can only be addressed once they have acquired an ambiguous history." —Jennifer Bolande, 1986

1986! That year the high tide of postmodernism and a vibrant market floated many boats. Locally, the art world cast a decadent eye upon glamorized readymades and cringe-y appropriations of biker culture. Jennifer Bolande's eye, no less decadent, mediated the aftershock of the spectacle originating a complex body of work around, among many other things, splashes of milk, inert Marshall amps, and the neglected furniture in porn movies. The suggestion that a viewer "locate an appropriate rhythm" while an object acquires an "ambiguous history" still swims against today's current of one-look art in the streaming age.

On Magenta Plains's ground floor twenty-eight photographs surround a single, centrally located blue steering wheel mounted on a no-nonsense pedestal of the same color. No junkyard trophy, this is a humble wheel that can be physically turned like in some panoptic arcade game situating you in a virtual "wheelhouse." The same object had been employed earlier in Bolande's Steering Wheel (1995) photograph where she compares her own knuckles along the ridged grip. The photographic print for Bolande previously served either as a physical material to manipulate or as a mnemonic site. Here each beautiful photograph is intentional, unpopulated and mostly context free except for the brilliant desert light. Immediate "Fine Art Photography" sources include off-center figures like early William Eggleston, Luigi Ghirri and the Kodachrome urban episodes of Saul Leiter. An upturned glass extends a vaulted dome over postcard Tokyo Under Glass (all works 2023); a trio of stones describes a single line of marble which travels across the picture and a nocturnal bird feeder substitutes for a newly discovered transparent deep-water species. Artists with cameras historically gravitate toward places and things that signal or resemble their own art, exemplified by young Robert Rauschenberg's photographs of Rome taken as he improvised his nascent assemblages there in 1953.

The sequencing of the archival pigment prints allows for many inclusions of water in all its forms which I associate with the unconscious nostalgia for analog photography. Here are two captures of ice cubes (white cubes?), clouds, droplets, filled tubs and milky submerged forks. Iggy Pop made a mysterious claim about being an "ice machine" in the droning "Nightclubbing" and Bolande includes an unsettling image of one, a Judd-like configuration, prismatic visor and all. Nothing could be sunnier than the Magritte-ian Window with Cloud and more modernist than Lines in the Sand an observation of linear alignments temporarily linking parched earth to sky. Bolande's attraction to maps as malleable pictorialized space continues in Mirror Topology where an angled bathroom mirror reflects a topological mountain range, our planet's erupting "skin."

Upstairs seven images titled "Monoliths" attend four plaster sculptures, "Drifts," presented atop highly determined solid pedestals. Each photo is of a single tissue/kleenex promoted to the perpetual "next," a monolith certainly but also a cartoon ghost or witness to some occult ritual. Bolande's art has always summoned the meta, so as portraiture a "facial" tissue may offer a surface receptive to a fleeting reproduction albeit in a Shroud of Turin sort of way. As "icebergs," the handmade objects shift between the ominous and tragic, but I also recognize a Cubist citadel, Gibraltar (logo for Prudential) and cliffs of chalk, a sentimental sign of home for some crossing the channel. Like an object in a dream or a set in an amateur theater, these generalized formations have yet to acquire an ambiguous history.

Bolande's oeuvre is singularly resistant to the art fair photogenic and, like Arte Povera (Marisa Merz especially), it requires the physical encounter. My own visit(s) involved taking iPhone images for reference which, I was startled to discover, transformed the four standing objects into blue elongated Pop-y tissue boxes with their contents ready and waiting. In other casual shots the "Monoliths" operate as mirrors, each playing reflective host to out-of-register "Drifts."

Jennifer Bolande's earliest assemblage and important photo objects anticipated the abject nineties and later tendencies including the "archival impulse" and "affect theory" et al. The exhibition's title Persistence of Vision may be interpreted as either an attitude or a promise.

Tim Maul is an artist and art writer based in New York and Connecticut. His most recent exhibition was at Picture Theory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. AFTERMATH, his collaboration with Irish poet Catherine Morris is available on Amazon.

Magenta Plains Tim Maul