Critics’ Picks

View of Jill Frank “Nothing Ventured // Nothing Gained,” 2016.

View of Jill Frank “Nothing Ventured // Nothing Gained,” 2016.


Jill Frank

Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia
75 Bennett Street Suite A2 or M1
September 23–November 19, 2016

The title of Jill Frank’s exhibition “Nothing Ventured // Nothing Gained” appears in cursive script tattooed across the firm chest of a young man sitting in a still body of water, red solo cup in hand, for Beach Pose (Sunburn & Solo Cup), 2015. So begins the artist’s treatise on young adults, their cool reserve and their searing emotions. Whether bored or fraught with regret, the affect of each subject reads clearly. “Everyone Who Woke Up at the Yellow House,” 2016, a series of three double-sided portraits hanging in the center of the gallery, features teenagers the night after a house party: One young woman, her brow furrowed and hair blowing in the wind, looks off into the distance as if replaying the drama of the night before. In other works, the deep intimacy and folly of youth culture emerges: A duo holds up a young man as he attempts a keg stand in Keg Stand Study #4, 2016. In Newton Park Tennis Court, 2016, there’s a group huddle in the far corner of a park, a plume of smoke rising above them. The irony inherent in the show’s title haunts these images of typical young behavior.

Many of the works feature palm trees or cheap motels in the background, a sly nod to spring-break culture in Florida. Unlike what would generally be captured via Instagram or in carefully constructed “snapshots” of teenage life in, say, an Urban Outfitters catalogue, Frank instead brings a reverence to her subjects and their emotional states. Captured mostly with a large-format camera, the pictures feel stilled and permanent, often recalling Renaissance portraiture. As such, they reveal not just literal acts for the camera but also the timeless posturing of youth.