New York

Jane Rosen

Grace Borgenicht Gallery

Under the title “Better Nature,” Jane Rosen assembled an intriguing set of sculptures. Even when visible characteristics differed, a transcendent “genetic” bond was apparent. Rosen’s work is influenced by the forms perceived in those moments prior to complete recognition—what is seen before pattern, color, and shape indicate some figure or formation—which serves to engage viewers in negotiating the relationship between perception and cognition.

These strangely crafted pieces examine the relationship between the natural, the found, and the fashioned. Rosen frequently revisits the horse’s head, foregrounding the animal’s power and vulnerability, and using a range of associations to inscribe the tensions between abstraction and figuration. Race, 1993, consisted of two similar horse heads mounted on the wall—one black and the other white; they were stark, startlingly simple pieces. The thick viscosity of the materials applied to the armatures pointed to a fundamental commonality that transcended the contrast between the colors.

Horses/Heads, 1992, was a lineup of six horses’ heads protruding from the wall. Spanning a generous expanse, they assumed diffident and proud stances, often evoking unique characteristics despite their spare geometry. Nevertheless, they formed an unmistakable unity. One head was simply a wooden wedge. Its neighbor was composed of rounded, organic forms marked with a large white blaze, but it lacked any other lifelike characteristics; there were no ears, eyes, or mouth. The ensemble was both somber and comical: the heads looked like trophies as well as whimsical apparitions that had nuzzled their way through the walls of the gallery.

In another interrogation of the opposition between nature and culture, Rosen created two pieces that used pontoonlike forms to represent animal anatomy. Boat/Beak, 1992, looked like a fiberglass boat sliced in two. Attached to the wall, this halved vessel protruded into the gallery space. The pointed bow was turned upside down and placed over the blunt stern, making the piece resemble the parted beak of a gigantic bird quietly calling or ready to attack, at once plaintive and menacing. Nearby two similar forms stood on end on the floor. While they too looked like a boat, the title Left Wing/Right Wing, 1992, pointed to the need for a multivalent reading. One’s first impression of this piece as an artifact skillfully vandalized was countered by the number of possible meanings suggested by the title.

Rosen addresses a range of ideas about culture and nature, and our experience of them. In most of her work, she begins with imitation and gradually transforms the image until its origin is discernible only after prolonged observation. In Horsehead, 1992, a painting on a thin sheet of wood, the background of diluted paint and the grain of the wood surface are visually puzzling. Eight horse heads—four over four—tentatively emerge from the earth-toned surface. Once again, white blazes become identifying strokes, but the abstract and the figurative remain negotiable terms.

Patricia C. Phillips