Critics’ Picks

Rachel Jones, Memento Mori, 2012, oil on plastic, 25 x 23". Installation view.

New Orleans

Rachel Jones

The Front
4100 St. Claude Avenue
January 14–February 10

Remember your mortality. Rachel Jones’s exhibition “Memento Mori” reworks the bulwark of art-historical iconography associated with this phrase into an absorbing display of postmodern devotion infused with reincarnations of romanticism. The show’s title painting reveals a funereal floral display of golden mums, pastel pink azaleas, and a variety of other flowers that incorporate areas of fuchsia, green, and taupe. Below the image, in altarlike fashion, sit several lit candles on a simple white shelf. The fleeting beauty of a bouquet underscored by the diminishing flames sets the tone for an exhibition of contemporary vanitas. In Nothing Will Be as Before, 2012, an animal pelt sprawled out on a sea of white is highly reminiscent of Courbet’s Fox in the Snow (another memento mori incarnation). Nature continues its course in This Will Go On Long After Us, 2011, as a singular bolt of lightning sets a tree afire in the foreground, illuminating the night sky.

With one exception, each piece instantiates the artist’s style of thickly painted oil on thin plastic affixed directly to the wall, providing a palpable surface tension between the highly charged painting and the void of the wall. The anomaly—Untitled, 2012—is a bold break that nonetheless pays tribute to past methods: A diamond-shaped piece of brightly painted plastic reverently rests atop a pile of blackened flowers. Nearby is We Are Free, 2011, a 6 x 6” square, one-third of it nicely bent at a right angle so that it straddles two adjacent walls forming a corner. Within its edges, galactic speckles sitting on a black background cleverly invert the void of the wall’s white expanse with its paradoxically tiny cosmic window.

As each piece contains intense narratives, worlds in and of themselves, Jones creates an altogether arresting and thoughtful assembly ardently reminding the viewer to live life deeply.