Los Angeles

Joan Jacobs

Everett Ellin Gallery

“This is not a picture of a “Rocket to the Moon.” It simply illustrates the fact that over every endeavor of nature and man . . . exists one absolute truth, as symbolized by a bright circle.” This legend is engraved in metal on one of the several plaques attached to works in Joan Jacobs’ most recent show. She has moved into the icy philosophical realm of “non-painting”; things which are intended as confrontation machines, concrete metaphors that make demands not unlike an oracle’s veiled pronouncements. This is not the scattergun attack of the objectmaker or the pop-artist but rather carefully aimed sets of metaphysical symbols. The devices are usually large triptychs, of either canvas or hard panels, on which the surface treatment might include appliquéd canvas, collage, spray paint, letters and number cutouts. All of this is used with a depersonalized fastidiousness that keeps the act of making subordinate to the thing itself. The recurrent symbol is the circle, usually yellow; referents to three or threeness appear often; and at times rocket ships or pine trees. (In silhouette, hearts, and less formal patterns are employed.) Miss Jacobs depends on subtle illogical relationships for her effectiveness. As an example Red, White, and Blue, is a triptych in which colored stripes appear on a grey velvety background in the left hand panel; the center panel is dominated by a large white circle on a grey field of irregular appliquéd patches, and the right panel (again a monochrome) contains black stripes in heavy paint on a soft grey flux. No panel has elements of the other, the resolution of the whole in defiance of these disparate parts is quite a compositional feat—and more important is really the philosophical fishhook on which the artist catches the spectator.

In spite of their earnestness and plastic sleight of hand however, the end result is disappointingly thin, both as philosophy and as painting. Infinite Dominion and One-ly as examples of titles show a desire to speak of large concepts of unity, but in her desire to escape the obvious devices of painting, Miss Jacobs has lost her voice to craftsmanship.

Doug McClellan