The Renaissance Society opens its 76th season with a site-specific installation by Canadian artist Jessica Stockholder, whose most recent projects have been for the 1991 Biennial of The Whitney Museum of American Art, and a solo exhibition at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam. Stockholder’s work boldly melds together materials that embody widely disparate personal memories and physical properties, creating rather perverse but solid visual marriages of such things as enamel paint, old T-shirts, and wicker chairs. What distinguishes these amalgamations from earlier similar ways of working is that Stockholder’s material properties are much more physically (architecturally) interdependent, their meanings much more specifically personal and symbolically obscure.
Such structural and emotional complications experienced in the rubric of art cause viewers to be distracted by and vacillate between what something looks like, what holds it in place, and what it means, constantly re-introducing and exchanging our comprehension on many personal and material levels.
Stockholder’s careful placement and use of paint, fabric, or newspaper can give them the appearance of having tensile, architectural strength, while sheets of drywall or car doors visually hover, as weightlessly as graphic signs. Stockholder presents these seemingly unfeasible juxtapositions as solid and irreversible facts, like dysfunctional families we encounter, negotiate and accept. Thus Stockholder’s work presents situations that we might not agree with, that we would like to change, or that may be too painfuly or sweetly reminiscent as objects or colors. This sort of malevolent, half-forgotten, but nonetheless retained detritus of how we live is what Stockholder’s work both embodies and suggests, in addition to its material diversity, sumptuousness, and formal bravado.