Critics’ Picks

View of “Joan Jonas: Minds of Their Own,” 2017.


Joan Jonas

Galleria Alessandra Bonomo
Via del Gesù, 62
December 2–February 28

Galleria Alessandra Bonomo
Via del Gesù, 62
November 30–April 10

The dramatic feel of the 2015 Venice Biennale US pavilion, featuring work by Joan Jonas and titled “They Come to Us Without a Word,” is woven through the artist’s third solo exhibition at this gallery. Viewers find themselves placed within a theatrical dimension, where their surroundings are subjected to the performative aspect that has always characterized her output.

In the first room is Minds of Their Own, 2016, an immersive video installation projected onto three separate screens. The performers in the video transform into diaphanous shadows. Here, Jonas seems to imagine a modern Platonic cave, where it is no longer possible to distinguish who is being looked at from who is looking (and viewers, passing in front of the projection to traverse the room, themselves become shadows). Several tables in the space present found objects and drawings, each a different size and produced on various supports (black cardboard, white drawing paper, and ivory, among others.). The second room of the show offers copious drawings to the point where it is almost obsessive. Outlines of animals—birds, seahorses, and tortoises—reduced to childlike strokes seem to lose weight and substance; indeed some are positioned on a small table of light-colored wood that brings to mind a nursery school setting. Jonas herself has aptly stated, “I think that children should figure out how to draw at the same time as they are learning how to read and write.”

A sound track by Jonas with some musical phrases by Jason Moran accompanies the show, which provides a narrative thread and, massaged by the artist’s mellow voice, creates an environment that is irrefutably immersive.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.