Jennifer Bolande: Persistence of Vision @Magenta Plains

JTF (just the facts): A total of 35 color photographs, framed in light wood/black, and hung against white walls in two separate gallery areas. (Installation shots below.)

The following works are included in the show:

First floor gallery

  • 28 archival pigment prints, 2023, each printed on 19×13 inch paper, in editions of 3+1AP
  • 1 steering wheel, blue pigmented high-density composite plinth and base, 2023, sized roughly 52x20x20 inches, unique

Second floor gallery

  • 7 archival pigment prints, 2023, sized 17×13, 18×14 inches, in editions of 3+1AP
  • 4 plaster, wood, wire mesh on blue pigmented high-density composite plinth and base, sized roughly 57x20x20, 59x20x20, 61x20x20, 63x20x20 inches, unique

Comments/Context: After nearly four busy decades of exploring the intersections of photography, sculpture, assemblage, and installation, and using her resulting image objects to interrogate both formal materiality and larger conceptual frameworks of mass media and perception, Jennifer Bolande has earned a moment or two of artistic consolidation and contemplative reflection. Having previously marked out a unique area of aesthetic interconnection and recombination for herself, Bolande’s new works feel like a conscious return to first principles, almost like a deliberate personal effort to reconnect to the fundamental pathways of photographic seeing and three-dimensional material thinking that have provided the foundation of her work from the very start.

The color photographs that fill the walls of the gallery space on the first floor take us on an eclectic journey of patient photographic observation, where Bolande’s mature understanding of how a camera sees turns modest found oddities into more resonant moments of visual discovery. Light is the activating agent in many of these images – interrupting domestic spaces, transforming simple objects and scenes, and adding unexpected washes of color. Bolande notices a shard of light illuminating the dust on a mirror, the saturated orange glow of the afternoon cast across a lamp, the sickly yellow light emanating from inside an ice machine, the seething red glow seeping through the cracks around a door, the light housed in a kick drum, and the parabola of light and shadow cast upward from corner lamp. Each scene seems to have been encouraged to linger and elongate, slowing us down so that its everyday magic can reveal itself more fully.

Bolande’s photographic eye has a hint of cinematic drama to it, giving her finds more heft than a typical stream of quirky photographic revelations. She understands how the nuances of photographic flatness can be effectively deployed, creating a disorienting illusion out of the juxtaposition of a billboard and a building, seeing formal ellipses in a pot of green water and a fork submerged in a milky broth, and playing with the geometries of rooftop chimneys and a water glass overturned atop a postcard of Tokyo. Mirrors and reflected views offer Bolande additional compositional options for layering and disruption, doubling up in bathrooms, laying fluffy clouds atop a yellow framed window, and refracting light from a behind-the-door mirror onto a nearby wall.

With no people included to distract us with implied narratives (aside from one skeleton in a box), Bolande is free to delve deeply into textures and colors, reveling in details that become primary subjects of their own. Mounds of ice, oranges in a hanging basket, droplets of water on plastic sheeting, cracked glass, and tire tracks and a twist of hanging rope on sand don’t tell us stories but instead set moods, each a meditative study of the subtleties of atmosphere. In the center of the gallery space, Bolande has installed a sculptural work featuring a steering wheel on a pedestal, and like a turning lighthouse, it seems to encourage a circling effect, the implied motion of our hands mimicking our eyes as they traverse the pictures on the walls.

One photograph from this larger series of observations offers us a textural view of a sheet of ordinary white facial tissue pulled upward from its paper box and set against a backdrop of blue bathroom tile; the cast light from the side creates shadows and hollows and the tiny details of folds and wrinkles in the tissue become a kind of topography. This picture seems to have provided a flash of inspiration for Bolande, who has then reimagined the tissue idea in a series of photographs and sculptures shown in the second floor gallery space.

Paper studies have a long and eventful photographic history, but I can’t say that I remember too many that have featured Kleenex as their primary subject; perhaps Stephen Gill’s inspired efforts with folded toilet paper and crumpled racetrack betting slips belong in the same general category, but Bolande has pushed hers further spatially, seeing the mountainous formal qualities (she has titled the series of images “Monolith”) hiding in these fragile wisps of pulled up paper. The constraints of her setup are decently confining – aside from the serendipity of how the tissue is pulled up and how it folds on itself, the only other variables to be considered are the backdrop (blue, white, or left to dark shadow) and the angle of light illuminating the tissue. And yet, Bolande’s images each feel almost effortlessly engaging, the sculptural qualities of the undulating and puckered forms seemingly infinitely complex. And given Bolande’s consistent interest in the interplay of images and objects, it isn’t entirely surprising that she then took this tissue idea one step further, constructing sculptural plaster casts that take inspiration from the tissue shapes and extend them into craggy faceted forms that seem to emerge from their blue pedestals like rock formations, creating a smart interplay of hard and soft, with a bit of ambiguity thrown in to keep the ideas open-ended.

While these new works may not be as conceptually complex or provocative as some of Bolande’s earlier projects, their understated sophistication shouldn’t be under appreciated – plenty of contemporary photographers head out to scavenge elegant visual oddities from the world around them and fail to come back with as much richness and depth as Bolande has shown us here. With both the tissue studies and the other found moments, Bolande has wrestled thoughtfully with how photography mediates the impermanence of what we experience. She’s stopped the clock for just a moment to steep herself in these delicate fleeting details, knowing full well that these very moments will soon disappear.

Collector’s POV: The photographs in this show are priced at $5500 each. Bolande’s photographic work hasn’t appeared at auction with much regularity in the past decade, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Poursuite Editions (here). Softcover, 21 x 29 cm, 144 pages, with 107 black-and-white and color reproductions. Includes an essay by Clément Ghys ... Read on.

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