New York

Jackie Ferrara

A.M. Sachs Gallery

Looking at Jackie Ferrara’s pyramids one thinks in terms of building. The stacking of plywood or chipboard row on top of row recalls methods of architectural structuring, as well as some of Carl Andre’s early work. Yet what becomes important in Ferrara’s new pieces is not only building as an activity which ties the end product to its making, but also building as a concept of series—as the sequential ordering of part to part which accumulates into a whole that is both an entity in itself and the sum of its parts. A series implies progression. But progression is not merely additive. It may incorporate shift and change. And it is the dichotomy in Ferrara’s work between the constancy of repetition and the variation given in the rate of progression which focuses one’s attention on the system rather than the artifact of building.

To begin with Ferrara’s Hollow Core Pyramid, which rises two feet from a two foot-square base. Each row consists of four rectangles, fitted into a square, which move in rotation from end block to side as the layers spiral upward, decreasing consecutively in area. The top of the pyramid, as in most of Ferrara’s work, is truncated, implying extension while at the same time halting the process to clarify it. For, one can look down through the top at the repeating constant of the empty square left by each row of rectangles. At the bottom one perceives the four squares which make up the base. By association one conceives the implicit cubed volume of the exterior which has been systematically decreased with each layer. The hollow of the interior becomes the standard against which one measures the steps of change. And one concentrates on the proportionate relationship of piece to piece which physically defines the ongoing progression of the series.

The interplay between concept and product becomes more complex when Ferrara employs a parabolic sequence instead of a linear one. Her B Pyramid, while retaining the norm of the central core, traces a bell-shaped curve on the outside due to the deaccelerating surface from bottom to top. Similarly 1-15 Ramp rounds upward by steps into the wall as the chipboard segments decrease horizontally in length at a slower and slower rate while they simultaneously pile vertically stage by stage from a stack of one to 15. The logic of the concept contrasts with the seeming illogic of its physical realization as straight edges outline curves. One realizes how visually one expects a progression to be linear, proceeding at an even pace. The regularity of Ferrara’s building process, of one plus one plus one, reinforces one’s acceptance of the additive consistency of constructive ordering. But the plotting of a series, whether graphically or in three dimensions, involves not only the direction of the movement, but also its speed. It is the explicitness of this hidden factor of time which causes one’s perceptual dislocation when confronted with the actualization of change. One shifts between the ordering of the concept and that of one’s perception as the outline of the final shape counterpoints the consistency of its making.

This interplay between idea and visualization is perhaps summarized in the Slatted A Pyramid. Here two arithmetic series are combined to form an A-shaped pyramid which decreases moreslowly at the bottom than the top. The rectangular slats of plywood are stacked in successive layers of two lengths and then two widths. The constancy of the hollow core is revealed in the banded rectangle created on the outside by the alternating empty spaces left as the slats shift from length to width. The evenness of these repeating bands from bottom to top contrasts with and underlines the contour defined by the progression of the outer edges. One’s perception fluctuates between the exterior form and its internal generation. One sees the piece as a monument in which the shape becomes the given and its fabrication is merely the means of achieving it. However, the exposure of the interior returns one to the concept as a priori. The outcome seems as much a result of the application of the system as it is the determinant of it.

Susan Heinemann