Critics’ Picks

Sarah Jones, The Rose Gardens (display: III / white) (II) and The Rose Gardens (display: III / white) (III), 2008, diptych, C-prints, overall 120 x 96”.

Sarah Jones, The Rose Gardens (display: III / white) (II) and The Rose Gardens (display: III / white) (III), 2008, diptych, C-prints, overall 120 x 96”.


Sarah Jones

Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 Third Avenue South
April 18–October 6, 2013

Sarah Jones’s haunting photographs visually lead one on a careful journey through physical and intellectual spaces. In this exhibition, thirteen dogmatic large-format pictures create robust portals that are cognitively familiar. One striking diptych of a Rembrandt-like garden in a London park depicts fragile white roses as if emanating from a cavernous dark abyss. In tall panels that show front and back views of the garden amid the twilight, the flowers are captured at their ripest moment, blooming on the edge of decay and yet enlivened by the camera’s imposing duration. Jones employed long exposures with some cleverly focused spotlights to achieve this dark-of-night effect—a tricky conceit that was actualized during the full light of day.

These dualities—day into night, life into declension, side A and side B—are reprised again and again throughout the show. Two additional diptychs, Life Model (I) and Life Model (II), 2008, and Horse (Profile) (Black) (II) and Horse (Profile) (Black) (III), 2012, even play the act of mirrors in a two-sided reality. Each shows both sides of its titled figure paired with backgrounds of like contrast, which effectively and seamlessly connects these subjects to the visceral spaces around them. Other works give primal focus to environments that facilitate the study of the unconscious through archetypal familiarity and their own kind of subliminal mirroring: Analyst (Couch) (I), 2008, pictures a vacant but dimpled psychiatrist’s couch as a weathered monument to patients analyzed; another image, Arrangement (Analyst) (I), 2007, settles on the kitschy aspects—a Chinese rock sculpture, for example—of a shrink’s office décor.

If Jones’s contemporaries (see: Nan Goldin) lead with the coursing lifeblood of identity as their subject matter, Jones instead captures phrenic Dasein; her long camera exposures animate the passage of time, embedding the figure (as well as the viewer) in a moment. The most alien of these pictures—an image of a film studio’s blue-screen infinity cove—is as arresting. In Cove (Virtual Film Studio) (I), 2007, a set purposed for the artificial is presented as a real landscape, collapsing the distance between the camera’s mechanical gaze and the mind’s projections.