New York

Jennifer Bolande

John Gibson Gllery

Jennifer Bolande has built a career from slippery, almost ephemeral visual statements. Though she has always enjoyed spinning out image-puns alongside the vast majority of her more attention-grabbing contemporaries, it’s never been in the service of an easily paraphrasable message about identity or politics, or both. In fact, it isn’t until you “get” her pieces that the peculiarities of her investigation begin to sink in. Bolande probes the sorts of slippages that take place in everyday life: the moment when one thing momentarily overlaps with another and the distinctions between objects, between the real and the imagined, become suddenly and irretrievably suspect.

Mining roughly the same vein as John Baldessari’s early ’70s deadpan pseudodocumentary photography or the current work of Jeanne Dunning, Bolande’s most recent exhibition focused largely on photographs arranged in a narrative sequence depicting full-sized, brightly colored transport trucks in oddly choreographed formations juxtaposed with shots of toy trucks in which some fragment of her body (a finger, for example) is used to indicate scale. Although most of the photographic works are square, this continuity only serves to accentuate a more deliberate ambiguity. It remains unclear whether these photos are meant to be seen as single images, film stills, or various “test” shots from the fake contact sheets that comprise the works hung closest to the gallery entrance. Certain images recur in different formations: Holding Pattern, 1994, shows five real trucks in a semicircle with their backs open, while in Glove, 1994, five toy trucks (each a different color) are attached to each of her fingers, her palm flat on the ground. In the diptych Held-Open Day, 1994, a calendar with a single day circled is placed beneath the five-truck image described above, as if to indicate that time and space can both be “held open.”

Many of Bolande’s earlier sculptural works dealt with images lifted from the world of music, her most frequent motif being the near-mythic Marshall amp. Recent music-based sculptural work was on hand here as well, providing a link between these seemingly distinct aspects of Bolande’s project. In both groups of works, Bolande engages our senses by playfully marking and erasing the boundary between the real thing and the esthetic object: between the trucks themselves and the conceptual austerity of the photographs in which they appear, or between the mundane sources of the forms in Orange Threshold, 1994, (the back of a truck set in an amp-shaped orange frame ) and their Minimalist esthetic. Most memorably, Aerial Phonograph, 1991, featured a turntable on which an LP with an image of a skydiving team, hands clasped in a ring as they gazed upward, spun well below 33 rpm. The physicality of this visual pun—the image of spinning figures literally spins—makes Bolande’s inquires into the phenomenology of perception in her other works a little more apparent. Because Bolande insists on the quirkiness of physical phenomena with such seeming offhandedness, she also keeps us guessing about where her work ends and our imagination begins.

Dan Cameron