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Jenni Crain. Photo: Barbara Probst.
Jenni Crain. Photo: Barbara Probst.

Jenni Crain (1991–2021)

Jenni Crain, a fast-rising New York–based artist, curator, and art dealer who foregrounded feminist theory and practice and whose spare, minimal sculptures addressed memory, embodiment, and construction of space, died at the age of thirty on December 16 due to complications related to Covid-19. The news was announced by her New York gallery, Gordon Robichaux.

“Jenni’s commitment to and interest in fellow artists encompassed their entire human experience,” the gallery wrote. “She formed immeasurable, lifelong bonds with those she worked and collaborated with, and touched all who knew her with her radiant joy, generosity, kindness, intelligence, nurturing spirit, and boundless energy. She will be missed by all who knew her.”

Crain organized exhibitions devoted to the octogenarian painter March Avery; the lesbian photographer and writer Tee Corinne; and the feminist author and activist Kate Millett, whose 1972 installation Terminal Piece Crain rigorously reinstalled in her masters’ thesis exhibition at CCS Bard in Annandale-on-Hudson earlier this year. In 2020, she was a curatorial fellow at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, where she was instrumental in organizing a year-long research season on Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña.

Earlier this year, Crain began working at the Lower East Side gallery Miguel Abreu as a director, a role she had previously held at Tribeca’s Kaufmann Repetto. Her many curatorial endeavors included O.O. & M.M (Only Once & Many More), an ongoing exhibition-making program supporting adaptable and alternative models of showing art, and Topless, a seasonal gallery in Rockaway Beach. A 2015 show there devoted to Anna Glantz, cocurated by Crain and Brent Birnbaum, was selected by painter Dana Schutz in Artforum as among the best shows of that year. “Set back from the road, its identity revealed only by a plot of recently planted palm trees, the space—like Glantz’s paintings—emanated surreal dislocation,” she wrote.

A lifelong New Yorker, Crain received her BFA in sculpture from the Pratt Institute in 2013. Her work has been exhibited at Octagon in Milan; Artist Curated Projects in Los Angeles; Baba Yaga in Hudson, New York; as well as KANSAS, Y Gallery, 321 Gallery, and Gordon Robichaux in New York City. Two posthumous solo exhibitions, “Moments Spared” at Tribeca’s Kerry Schuss gallery, and “Fleeting” at Gordon Robichaux, are slated to open in February and May, respectively, of next year.  

The last of the many exhibitions Crain organized, titled “Synonyms for Sorrow” and featuring the work of Patricia L. Boyd, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Taylor Davis, Masao Gozu, Park McArthur, Shanekia McIntosh, and Dan Graham, closed last month at Charim Schleifmühlgasse in Vienna. “I am reluctant,” she wrote in her curatorial statement, “to extend too many words that seek to describe this space referred to as sorrow, which I hope, here, might be felt. Held. Independently. Together. Not held in a way that contains, but held in a way that acknowledges, appreciates, addresses, resonates, reverberates, shakes, wakes, and, also, rests. For a moment.”