Installation by Terri Jones
Through Nov. 28
Cheekwood Museum of Art
1200 Forrest Park Dr.
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
$8 adults, $7 seniors/college students, $5 ages 6-17
For information, call 356-8000 or visit http://www.cheekwood.org.
Memphis artist Terri Jones’ latest conceptual work has transformed Cheekwood’s Temporary Contemporary Gallery, often used for exhibitions rather than installation art, into an environment that both soothes and stimulates. The walls and floor of the small room are white, as are most of the installation elementsa non-color scheme that envelops and disorients at the same time. Though views of the adjacent Frist Learning Center are admitted through a large arched window, the space itself feels strangely secluded.
According to Jones, the installation’s title, “Printkabinet,” is a reference to the drawings in the show and to the Swiss-German meaning of “kabinet” as an interior space. Seeking to address both physical and intellectual boundaries in her work, Jones has fashioned a walk-in cabinet sparsely populated with drawings, found objects, and texts that challenge the viewer to form a personal interpretation of the space.
“The windows within the gallery provided my initial concept,” Jones explains. “The two small windows high on the east wall are very odd and made me feel like a small child in a barn or a basement.” The artist decided to accentuate those windows, as well as the large arched one on the north-facing wall, by creating mirror images of them in graphite, vellum, and glass. “Vellum gives me the control to work very small,” she says. “I wanted these drawings to be small so the viewer will look closer and spend more time with them.”
Not only did Jones construct two white pedestals on which to place her tiny but finely detailed drawings of the windows, she also constructed the standing metal frames that hold each drawing. These appear to have the ability to swing back and forth, even as a window might. “The window provides a means of entrance or accessit is capable of being open and shut,” she explains. “I wanted to suggest that mobility.” Besides the two window drawings, Jones also created a sculptural window piece. This element, called “Ray,” mimics the reflection of a four-paned window on the gallery floor in squares composed of cardboard, graphite powder, and glass.
Jones has been planning the installation for over a year. Shortly after Cheekwood assistant curator Terri Smith invited her to do a show in the contemporary gallery space last fall, the artist left to work and study in Basel, Switzerland, on a grant from the Christoph Merian Foundation. The image of the Cheekwood space she carrried in her mind served as a blank canvas during her stay in Switzerland, according to Jones. “I saw two drawing shows in Europe that influenced me, and I returned home with a sketchbook full of ideasmost of them impractical,” she says of the creative process. “The challenge was to make something within my means [financially].”
As with the pedestals holding the framed window drawings, Jones also built the glass, wood, and steel case that holds seven small unframed drawings and a tiny black and white pebble. “These forms are more obscure and less concrete than those in the window drawings,” she says. “They could be raindrops or tears falling.” To some viewers, the rounded and curved lines etched in graphite on vellum may also suggest parts of the female anatomy.
Two larger drawings on sheets of vellum are draped over plaster and steel forms hung on the south and west walls of the space. In one of these drawings, Jones arranges small oval forms to create the image of a low wall that trails across the curved surface of the vellum. “There was a beautiful stone wall, covered with moss, in Basel that I used to visit every day, even though I had to go out of my way to do so,” Jones says of her inspiration for the piece she calls “Detour.” The other drawing, called “Catch,” suggests the path of a drop of liquid trickling downward.
The artist describes the two other elements of the installation as “hidden tracks,” referring to the term for songs included on an album but not listed on the album cover. Neither of these are listed on the diagram sheet describing each piece that visitors can pick up from a box just inside the gallery door. Viewers are likely to spot one of the hidden tracksa small black bowl filled with frosted glass balls that sits in the northwest corner of the spaceeasily enough. The other, a small glass funnel, is harder to discover. While the artist says the bowl is included for its beauty alone, the funnel, which is tucked away on the ledge of one of the east-facing windows, refers to the transference or funneling of ideas. “My aim is to sharpen the viewer’s power of observation by use of simple givens,” Jones adds.
The artist’s articulate explanations aside, the impact of conceptual art like this will always vary according to what the viewer brings to it. Some may see the stark white walls and spare arrangement of elements as confusing, others as comforting. The positioning of drawings of windows in front of actual windows can be seen as a comment on both mental and physical spaceor merely an interesting visual sleight of hand. The tiny organic shapes on the translucent vellum may strike some as sensual, others as simplistic.
But taken as a wholeas it was meant by the artist to be takenthe installation creates an environment most will find intriguing. “The idea is that the viewer and the work can interact in a number of ways,” Jones says. “I want to challenge the viewer to look at objects differentlyto construct and reconstruct.”
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