New York

Jennifer Bolande

Metro Pictures

Jennifer Bolande’s recent exhibition was her largest and most ambitious so far; it included a disparate selection of sculpture, photography, and works combining both media. Neither cohering visually nor commanding the space in a traditionally assertive way, the works were, in part, unified by the fact that each one helped to construct a discursive space between sculpture and photography. In the case of Milkcrown, 1987–88, Bolande fashioned a cast porcelain after Harold Edgerton’s well-known high-speed image of a milk-drop splash. Edgerton’s image is transformed by Bolande into a sculpted crown, making a pastiche of the photographer’s will to get a firm grip on nature by capturing its invisible moments through representation. The history of this milk-drop splash—from its moment as a physical phenomenon, to the first representation of it in Edgerton’s photograph, to Bolande’s sculpted edition of six—charts the distancing from and abstraction of the original phenomenon. But Bolande cannot be credited with the final step of this mediation; rather, the photographer who took the press photograph of the piece performs a sort of finale. The inversions and mutations of the original image—from nature to photograph to sculpture and back to photograph—occur outside the frame of conventional reception, blurring the distinctions between the object and its various representations. The image acquires a life-cycle of its own.

Bolande used stacked found objects in several pieces. These vertically oriented object-combines function linguistically in the way they construct and avoid meaning. In much the same way that the poet stacks lines and verses, not necessarily joined grammatically, in order to generate a totality, Bolande stacks objects whose contrasts and similarities construct a textural and syntactic richness. In Stack of Shims, 1987, a pile of wooden shims leans against the wall. Above it hangs a framed aerial photograph, depicting a natural disaster that has left three trees uprooted. This work suggests that nature can be as perilous to itself as technology (which turns trees into bundles of shims). In fact, the distinctions between the two become blurred, like the distinctions between the photograph and the found object.

Bolande also stacks speakers with signature regularity. The speakers transmit visual rather than aural sensations. In Conjunction Sculpture, 1988, a speaker is mounted on top of a refrigerator door. Besides looking like an appliance nobody would ever need, this piece alludes to sound and temperature visually, creating a sort of poetry of sensations. Marshall’s Stack, 1987, consists of three stacked speakers: the fabric front of the bottom one is masked by a promotional photograph for the movie Runaway Train, while the front of the middle speaker is masked by a photograph of Mars with the words “the planet Mars” written across it. The top speaker is unaltered and retains its ordinal Marshall logo in its center. In this piece, photographic image juxtaposition is incorporated into sculpture. The effect of this mélange is the suggestion of an aural cacophony behind the visual one, as if each speaker were emitting a different tune. The names on the speakers are like song titles, which, when read and heard in mind, evoke an absent music.

Matthew A. Weinstein