Artforum CRITICS' PICKS
301 Broome Street
April 17–May 29
“Verso Reverso,” Jessica Mein’s solo debut in New York, has its origins in the outdoor advertising ban enacted in her hometown of São Paulo four years ago. In her collages and animations, the promotional imagery of discarded billboard sheets serves as the basis for a sustained exploration of the paradox of repetition. Approaching Blue Windows, 2011, the viewer passes through a series of teasing discrete resolutions: The collage appears first as muted, high-contrast fragment, showcasing the sharp, unambiguous lines of a commercial photograph depicting a modern building in front of a blue sky. But the sheets are hung loosely, and on a closer look their creases and folds reveal the regularity of the half-tone printing process, in which dots of cyan, yellow, and magenta are closely gridded. On this surface the artist has punched out holes and reglued their respective disks in patterns mirroring the printing process. Using sheets that were discarded for production faults, Mein mingles those mechanical errors with her handmade interventions, the repeated forms subtly changed by their very reappearance.
In an animation on the opposite wall, Billboard, 2010, collaged and overdrawn stills from a video show a worker mounting a billboard. In the jerky stitching of the animation, objects keep diverging and reframing: The ladder loses rungs (at times the worker hangs in space with Buster Keaton resolve), the billboard sheets disappear and reappear. In its playfulness and emphasis on process, the parallel installation of an animation and the commonplace raw ingredients it is made of recalls William Kentridge, and for both artists meaning is built up through the reappearance of images, changed at every step and coalescing into a coordinated effect.
In a densely-layered animation, projected onto a single crumpled piece of paper, Mein has recorded an activity practically outlawed by recent visual anti-pollution laws; a laborer ascending and descending a ladder as he pastes sheets to an advertising hoarding. In cutting and splicing thousands of images together, the film re-animates this out-moded practice.
In a series of collages, salvaged billboard sheets are hole-punched and painstakingly collaged by hand, accentuating the faultiness inherent to the material. Efficiency and geometric form become interrupted by the handmade and mechanical error; while accident and imperfection are made implicit.
A group of works on paper combine a minimal repetitive gesture with similar rigor. Tiny loops of ink compress and expand in regimented, structured repetition, echoing both the paper folds and densely populated, formal compositions.
On the back wall, 36 hand-bound books are installed as a grid to comprise Miopia. The cover of each unique book combines to form a large, highly-produced advertisement. This image is broken into infinite combinations of interruptions by revealing the contents of each book, culled from further discarded billboard material, cut and drawn on, creating a dense and unique work of hyper-collage. It is the abstraction of representation, together with a physical handling of images, that is at the core of Mein's practice.
Special thanks to Mariana Lanari, at Lanari Editions, for the collaboration and production of Miopia.
Tony Wight Gallery is pleased to announce Natureza Morta, a solo exhibition of video and works on paper by Jessica Mein. This will be the artist's first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Jessica Mein's videos are silent loops, created from hundreds of drawings, photographs and video stills. The content for Natureza Morta is assembled from recording the daily setup of a fruit vendor in a rural town in Argentina. Combined with excerpts taken from still life paintings of fruit, from works by both renowned masters and anonymous painters, the material is then painstakingly collaged and drawn upon, and ultimately compressed into a single animation. Error, accident and imperfection are all implicit in these processes, which reference the patina of time, precarious structures, as well as limitations inherent to the medium. Natureza Morta attempts to underline the repetition and accumulation of daily labor.
In Mein's videos, technological coherency and efficiency become interrupted by the faultiness of the handmade. Additionally, ideas of linearity and absolute time are broken and fragmented as the work alludes to a perceptual subjectivity akin to that of memory. Mein is more interested in the structuring of storytelling and its materiality, rather than its actual narrative. Her works on paper address this structuring more concretely, foregrounding their labor with a stillness absent from the animated works.
The video piece “Cegueira” is the story of a Venetian blind: When pulled up and down it performs as a metronome and theatrical curtain and literally as a cutting edge with a point of view from the inside towards the outside with various exterior scenes of urban repetitions and accumulations; their patina, materiality and grittiness. “Cegueira” can be experienced from outside of the gallery space as well as the inside, as “Cegueira” is captured on the window glass between the interior and exterior to perform as a holographic illusion of a blind. It offers interpretations on multiple levels and the immense work effort behind it definitely shows. The video consists of over 600 hand made drawings, collages and photographs which are set into motion. They are invested in the physical structure of a story rather than to become a narrative, as such, and they disrupt the technological and digital seamlessness with the inherent faultiness of the handmade. The video interlace also corresponds with the physical properties of the images and their movements, as an intangible layer between the screen and what is behind it, which is created through drawing, cutting and re-layering the images. This is often how Mein works and methods differ from investigating with contents of urban origin, as in “Natureza Morta” and “DeleveleD”, or organic and natural phenomenas, as in “Twirl” and “Cooking Bubbles”, as with “Funes“, cultural. But it is always with a profound dedication and concern for the detail, technique and structures. “Cegueira” is at one and the same time delicate and potent and it dwells, as an about, caught between fact and fiction to triangulate the past, the present and the future.
(Gallery Pfeister, Gudhjem,
(Gallery Pfeister, Gudhjem, Denmark)