By: Brendan Sullivan
By: Brendan Sullivan
Jennifer Reeves' show “The Shape of Truth: A Story of Sadness and Hope,” at Galeria Ramis Barquet, plays a deeply pleasurable game with flatness and depth, materiality and immateriality. Many, though not all, of the works consist of a photograph inkjet-printed onto a highly textured, thick paper, like that used for watercolors or wedding invitations. The printed scene shows vaguely anthropomorphic figures made of twigs and pieces of unidentified, brightly-and motley-colored material. These figures are in some desolate or lonely landscape, for example: a vacant lot, an empty, snowy field, or a rocky outcropping. The figures are simultaneously sad and whimsical, their clumsy contours and awkward dimensions emphasized by the quiet emptiness of their surroundings.
Blobs of what seem to be acrylic paint are placed on top of the printed image left to dry, forming foamy, textured lumps on the surface of the paper. These lumps both emphasize and complicate the flatness of the printed image beneath. The blobs’ aggressive three-dimensionality accentuates the image’s ink-jet flatness, while colors and textures of the acrylic blobs seem to replicate those of the material from which the blocky figures were sculpted. This gives the images of these figures a materiality by association that they might otherwise lack, drawing attention to even the thick texture of paper on which the images are printed. The bright, luscious, organic pinks, greens, oranges, and blues give these assemblages a sensual appeal that the unadorned printed images would otherwise lack.
The press release for the exhibition claims that Reeves is “caught in the endless loop between paint as matter, and paint as a spiritual symbol … Therein lies the substance of her art. In its failure, Reeves gets to the heart of the conundrum. Reeves’ work may be seen as a practice in hope.” Certainly, it seems as if Reeves sees “meaning” or “significance” as something other than the visual and material aspects of her work, something that fits only awkwardly and disruptively into her assemblages. On one of the walls of the room, there is a version of her earlier gouache-on-paper collage work, in tones of mottled green and brown, with the phrase “abstraction sees the horizon” typed in the center. An outline-figure of a large bird crapping on the collage and the floor below is painted in acrylic paint directly on the wall, above the collage. Lines of paint are drawn all the way down to the floor, collecting in large clumps and blobs where the floor meets the wall.
These blobs and clumps recall the similar forms applied to the inkjet prints elsewhere in the gallery, suggesting a general opposition between the typographical message in the collage and the more naturalistic, organic art appearing in this show. However, because this meaning has to be relayed typographically, rather than being more subtly integrated into Reeves’ forms and techniques, it seems somehow “other” than the artwork. This implies, unfortunately, that Reeves’ work is in some way incompatible with serious meaning. Reeves’ sophisticated plays on surface, texture, flatness, and depth certainly demonstrate that she is an ingenious and talented artist, and that perhaps soon she will be able to fulfill the “hope” articulated by her press release: a more successful and satisfying unity of material and significance.
See more works by Jennifer Reeves at artnet.com
Jennifer Reeves, The Shape of Truth: A Story of Sadness and Hope at Galeria Ramis Barquet runs through April 25th
Galeria Ramis Barquet
Take the C or E train to
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat, 10am-6pm
Gallery website: www.ramisbarquet.com