Jennifer Rochlin for Home Show, Revisited
I visited Jennifer Rochlin’s studio several weeks ago to find out about her plans for the Home Show, Revisited at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. As you should be aware, the show opened on May 21 to much acclaim. (Yay artists and curators!!! Many cheers!)
So I’ve got some catching up to do.
In the studio was a large metal framework structure and many ceramic plaques. This framework was four open planes, each stepped back from the other, and hanging from the top member (the lintel if these were doors) were yellow shaped panels, sort of like cartoony alphabet symbols. Onto these panels Rochlin intended to fix her ceramic paintings, or tiles.
Large scale stand alone sculpture is new for Rochlin, previously she has exhibited wall pieces – both large scale mural style and discrete ‘painting’ size. Often these make use of the wall as a surface for the art, marking out a space with paint and applying clay tiles and painted or printed fabric.
Jennifer talked about the challenge of making something that must support itself – it occurred to me (why for the first time I wonder?) that a good part of sculpture is structural engineering, and this fact of structure, while being a challenge, must also open doors to new thinking on the part of an artist.
Later, at the opening reception, Jennifer Rochlin and I discussed this fact, she shared that “originally I (Rochlin) thought I would use many more of my tiles on the piece.” As she installed the sculpture and put the tiles on, the installation became worse and worse looking (my paraphrase NOT Jennifer’s words at all) so finally she edited until the balance she sought was present in the work. She remarked noticing that having the structure visible as lines and planes in space, and accounting for the fact that the object occupied three dimensions offered sufficient complication and so applying the additional detail of many more colored tiles – which might work on a flat wall piece – only fussed the sculpture up too much.
An interesting thing occurred while we were walking around Rochlin’s sculpture on its Montecito mansion lawn – a breeze came up and caused the tiles to clank delicately against their wooden panels. This was a very gentle way to be reminded of the physical nature of the work – one moment the sound (a rather deep in tone sound) came from six feet behind me and eight feet to my left, then the tiles right in front of me sounded, and then all were silent. The metal framework outlined in space transparent planes, sliding over one another and intersecting. The wooden panels and clay tiles, while slight in profile, suggested to me mass – by their flat, opaque surface areas, and also bulk – by the subtle, resounding clanking in the breeze.
Visually the work has a sort of Bam-Bam Modernism, perhaps like Picasso if he watched the Flintstones and the Jetsons, hmm, while holding hands with Matisse. This phrasing of course is my glib self coming out – a little bit to the point but entirely missing the sense of personal story-telling I picked up from the tiles: they resemble small portraits, flowers, prehistoric-looking drawings, all on tiles that might be chevron shaped, or round, or bumpy organic – some are shaped like fish and some like faces. I do not suppose these add up to a classic narrative but maybe they do become an older style of narration: small meaningful moments in clay, signifying one’s passage through life by representing the myriad – and separately insignificant – objects one touches, faces one sees and thoughts that spring to mind.
I attempted three times in thirty second videos to capture the sound I mention above. Little was my success, though the videos do make nice detail shots of Jennifer’s sculpture. So if you’d like to see more, check them out:
Thanks much, talk with you again soon,
The more of CAF “Home Show, Revisited:
CAF Part 7: Jennifer Rochlin for Home Show, Revisited