New York

Jessica Diamond

American Fine Arts

For the last few years, Jessica Diamond has made a number of ink-on-rice-paper drawings, many of them consisting largely of texts derived from or inspired by the dank morass of the mass media—commercials and sitcoms, vapid jingles and feel-good homilies. In this, her first solo show, Diamond continues to stretch the formal and thematic concerns of her earlier work, both by painting large-scale messages on the gallery wall and by literally remaking the slight, delicate, seemingly ephemeral rice paper drawings as discrete, diminutive objects she calls “commemorative gold pieces.” These creditcard-sized gold plaques, ostentatiously mounted and framed, trumpet the theme of commodification, just as the wall drawings suggest at least a token resistance to it.

“Buy a Condo or Die,” “Elvis Alive,” “Shorts Are Wrong,” “Be Happy You Are Loved”: Diamond manipulates the language of the media, while dispensing with all but the most cursory pictures, thus severing that language from the image glut that buffets yet sustains it. Her sparse texts echo and distort—but only slightly—the chatter of newscasters, talk-show hosts, televangelists, pop stars, and politicos, depicting them as the oily used car salesmen of the mind. There’s an unmistakeable moral edge to Diamond’s deadpan reflections of media hypertrophy, one that sometimes veers toward the tendentiously moralistic, as in Idiot Trinity, 1989, a piece that pairs three rock song titles—“Hotel California,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Nights in White Satin”—with its own blandly mocking title. Apparently taking the high ground regarding Pop culture, the artist betrays a lack of self-irony with respect to her own relatively privileged status.

Diamond’s work is at least residually predicated on a notion of art as resistance—to the art object, commodification, capital, perhaps even the seductions and corruptions of language itself. But her ostensible critiques of the media and corn-modification are less effective as disruptive practices than as nostalgic historical reflections on the conditions of their own making. She offers a jaundiced recapitulation of the history of conceptualism: the wall drawings harken back to the vaunted dematerialization of much conceptual work of the ’60s and ’70s, whereas the shiny and smirky commemorative gold pieces are parodic correlatives to the already parodic, commodity-obsessed objets de luxe of Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach. Despite its vague attempts at cultural intervention, Diamond’s art remains poignantly trapped within the confines of the art world.

David Rimanelli