New York

Jackie Ferrara

A.M. Sachs Gallery

Jackie Ferrara’s recent works—apart from their iconographic meanings—forcefully demonstrate elementary methods of building. Stairways, towers, and pyramids are assembled from modular units. The process is additive and archaizing. As in Egyptian pyramids, stacking is primary. In most of her work, there is no disguise of the support; the work itself is embodied support.

Ferrara’s materials are wood, canvas, cardboard, cotton batting—which covers all the surfaces—and glue. In 2x4 Tower, 2“ x 4” pieces of wood are cut into equal 21" lengths. The equal, bricklike units, the tactility of her preferred materials (especially cotton batting), and her emphasis on artisanlike, repetitive action relates Ferrara to a craft tradition that informed much of her earlier production. For several years she was involved in making small, fetish-like objects. A subsequent formal consciousness resulted in more attention to materials and less to imagery. At this point, she bound and knotted large bundles of hemp into shaggy, totemic shapes. The sole residue of this experience was a methodical approach emphasizing repetition.

In 2x4 Tower, pieces are stacked at approximate right angles to a height of 8’9“. As a stabilizing element, wooden dowels run through the corners. The width and depth (21” x 21") encompass approximate body size. Compared to the human body, the height is dwarfing. The tower’s slight sway, plotted into the work, emphasizes its anthropomorphic aspect.

The cardboard, wood, and canvas cores are covered with a Beuys-like pulpy gray batting made of recycled old clothes and flecked with little colored pieces of thread that escaped pulverization. The cotton is adhered to the forms and then in turn recoated with glue. The patterns made by the brush as it was dragged across the resistant surface are still visible. This dressing softens and neutralizes the surface, turning it into a kind of primary, ultimate substance; it gives the body of work cohesiveness and focuses attention on structure rather than skin.

Tony Smith’s definition of Die as a work lying somewhere between an object and a monument applies to Ferrara’s tower. The scale/size relationship of this and several other pieces—Stairway and Walled Stairway for example—seem to propel the work into still another category, one which might be called “model.” Neither of the stairway pieces, however, is a scale model in a miniature sense. As a group, the pieces seem to establish a new canon of proportions. They are models in the sense that they establish a pattern capable of infinite extension, like molecular chains. Their relationship to architectural models is only pretextual. They are more about verbs than nouns.

Laurie Anderson