Read an excerpt from Ann Reynolds’ essay for the catalog Joan Jonas: They Come to Us without a Word
Sun. August 30, 2015
Professor Ann Reynolds wrote the main essay for the catalog accompanying Joan Jonas’ exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The essay commission comes after more than a decade of her work with Jonas and the following is an excerpt from her essay, How the Box Contains Us.
Brilliantly lit by a world located outside the primary interior space depicted in the painting, this rectangle competes for attention with other, equally well-lit portions of the foreground and middle ground and seems to suggest not only another space within the painting or alter¬nate interpretations of the internal logic of the painting’s space, but also, perhaps, opportunities to consider Tintoretto’s painting in space. One might imagine Tintoretto’s bright rectangle as a discrete picture of an alternate event, time, or place, hovering like an apparition in an ambiguous relation to the space occupied by the biblical story of the Massacre of the Innocents. Or it could be a mirror reflecting a space beyond the physical confines of the painting. In any sense, Tintoretto’s painting may be experienced as a more open, fluctuating palimpsest of spaces that don’t always coalesce even as they coexist within a shared set of physical limit terms: the length and width of the canvas and the three dimensions of the room in the Scuola Grande.
It is quite a simple gesture, one that Joan Jonas often makes in her performances. She stands in front of a large, prerecorded video pro¬jected onto a wall or screen and holds up a piece of white paper or cloth, sometimes shifting it from side to side, tipping it slightly left to right, then right to left, shaking it, or using it to track or momentarily frame the movements of something in the projection behind her. Some¬times she makes drawings on the paper or holds it close to her body and traces her body’s contours onto it with a marker or crayon. The visual effects are subtle. Just a slight change in the distance or angle between the projector and the surface of the projection brings the por¬tion of the video image Jonas is capturing a bit closer and isolates, frames, and magnifies it slightly, in or out of focus, transforming the rest of the projected image into background. If the paper she holds up is black, Jonas’s gesture produces the opposite effect; it almost obliter¬ates part of the projected image and substitutes a black void or a white-on-black drawing for this temporarily “lost” portion.
During these actions, Jonas wears simple white or light-colored clothing, across which the projected video image also visibly extends, simultaneously absorbing her into it as she extends parts of it, her drawings, and herself outward. Through her gestures and these visual transformations, she subtly disrupts the internal logic of the prerecorded, projected image’s space and its figure/ground relationships by weaving them into her space and into the present, a space and time she also shares with her audience. These spatial effects are quite fleeting, as eventually Jonas drops the paper or cloth to the floor and moves on to something else, but during those moments, she is self-consciously challenging the viewer’s reflexive relation to viewing images of space in a manner that is similar to the potential experiences that Tintoretto’s paintings allow.
A few days after visiting the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Jonas asks: “Why do we make these spaces?”
Ann Reynolds, “How the Box Contains Us,” Joan Jonas: They Come to Us Without a Word. United Sates Pavilion, 56th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. Edited by Jane Farver. Cambridge: MIT List Visual Arts Center, New York: Gregory R. Miller & Co. and Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2015, 18-27.
Richard Shiff explains why critics have failed painting in The Art Newspaper
Wed. June 17, 2015
Via The Art Newspaper: Cliché and a lack of feeling: Richard Shiff explains why critics have failed painting
Lynne Adele co-authored book published by UT Press
Mon. June 1, 2015
Lynne Adele (BFA in Art History, 1984 and MA in Art History, 1987) co-authored As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850—1930 (University of Texas Press). It is the first book to explore how secret societies contributed to American visual culture during the “golden age” of American fraternalism. Her partner on the project is Bruce Lee Webb, longtime fraternal art collector and owner of Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas. David Byrne, best known as the singer and songwriter for the band Talking Heads, contributed the book’s foreword. The book will be available November 2015.
New publication co-edited by alumnae Kaylee R. Spencer and Maline D. Werness-Rude
Mon. June 1, 2015
Maya Imagery, Architecture, and Activity: Space and Spatial Analysis in Art History (University of New Mexico Press) was co-edited by Kaylee R. Spencer (PhD in Art History, 2007) and Maline D. Werness-Rude (MA and PhD in Art History, 2003/2010).