CASSANDRA C. JONES
SEND ME A LINK
Send Me a Link by
Cassandra C. Jones August 1 - September 5, 2009
BAER RIDGWAY EXHIBITIONS
172 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 www.baerridgway.com | 415.777.1366 | email@example.com
Cover, back and right page images: Cassandra C. Jones, Single Frame Animation #10, 2009, Video (silent), Loop, Edition of 2
Fermata: On the Work of Cassandra C. Jones and the Status of the Unsettled Image James Merle Thomas Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides — pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. “No one sees the barn,” he said finally. A long silence followed. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.” Don Delillo, White Noise, 1983
By manipulating found, sourced, and collected images into photographic compositions and animated video loops, Cassandra C. Jones has for several years exercised a patient and painstaking approach to contemporary collage. In earlier works realized as wallpaper installations and framed prints, lush, organic structures were composed of single images, assembled fugue-like in repeating and varying configurations, often assuming an ornamental quality. However, what appeared at a distance of a few feet as a series of austere forms (rosettes, classical curves, and flourishes) was often revealed, upon closer inspection, to consist of charged images: Jones frequently wove nubile cheerleaders into circular patterns, their legs forming a fleshy and ominous maze the eye was inevitably forced to trace. In selecting such content, Jones has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated an attention to the significance of ubiquitous imagery as it informs contemporary vision. The libidinal mess of cheerleader limbs thus becomes shorthand for a contradiction at the root of much of the artist’s work: the eye comes to rest on an image, settling on (and for) something that is actually quite unsettled — and often unsettling. Such tension has proven consistently productive for Jones; while the artist’s more recent work signals a departure from earlier, more overtly decorative pieces, still present is an attention to the precarious and dynamic ways in which one constructs an image, be it in the role of the producer or the consumer. Recently, Jones has toyed precisely with this distinction of production and consumption, culling thousands of amateur photographs of similar images, e.g., clichéd sunsets or pensive moons, stringing them into short video loops, a form the artist has referred to as “snap-motion re-animations.” The move is twofold. It is at once an artistic hubris of planetary dimension, a claim to rearrange the narratives of nature — September Reverses. Yet at the same time, in constructing these stories from countless photographs taken by amateurs, Jones moves inward, suggesting that the viewer is equally important in animating these narratives; that we are here to maintain the image and not capture it. The ensuing questions are as recursive as the loops themselves: Who now owns these images? What part of these images do they retain? How many copies or links of them exist? What does our role as viewing subjects, looking at “owned” or otherwise “proprietary” images suggest about our ability to assert and maintain our own narratives? Whose story is this anyway? And so on. In animating countless images of the “same” p. 6
Cassandra C. Jones, Lightning Drawing 2, 2009 Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 24 inches, Edition of 2
thing, the artist might be suggesting that the capacity to construct narrative is made possible only via the sheer number of snapshots taken; only by viewing countless iterations of the same scene are we able to truly “see” what it is we are supposed to be looking at. Clearly at stake for Jones is the very ubiquitous nature of such snapshots (and by proxy one can here include the visual logic of the internet, and of search engines, Flickr, etc.) — not unlike Delillo’s Most Photographed Barn in America, what we see might not actually be the sunset itself, but rather an accumulation of nameless energies, an aura defying easy classification or measurement. Again, the status of the image is anything but settled. The title of Jones’ most recent solo exhibition, Send Me a Link, is at once a nod to the digital landscape in which we find ourselves, and a plea, perhaps an imperative, to create context amidst an endless expanse of images. The phrase explicitly signals the centrality for Jones of network- or systems-oriented digital technologies in the appropriation, accumulation, and manipulation of photographs; the artist culls many of her images from stock or professional photo agencies with an ease and speed unique to our lived moment. Similarly, the wide ranging content of the artist’s most recent compositions (leaping animals, looping roller coasters, hovering athletes) all share a suspended quality, suggesting that approaches to flight, air, falling, or hovering might form a new common thematic concern in Jones’ evolving practice. She has pushed the suggestion even further in recent compositions: by manipulating streaks of lightning across the night sky into explicitly figurative shapes (Lightning Drawing Series, 2009), she offers another link: the aligning of the practices of drawing and photography. Swarm (2009), an archival inkjet print of a football player, repeated and tessellated into a tightly organized sphere of bodies, directly underscores this convergence. By isolating a single figure, poised mid-air in a Heisman-like stance, Jones has reduced a whole entity into its formal parts: a sketch. The body is here deconstructed into a series of hooked and extended limbs, classical angled and curvilinear lines; the arched expanse of the runner’s back is interrupted by the electric, almost unnatural blue of his pants. Jones thus emphasizes the athlete’s body not as one necessarily in motion, but as something entirely constructed, an assembled image consisting of many smaller formal units: limbs, colors, and so on. When multiplied, these basic shapes create a sea of bodies, an organic structure hinting at the tension between p. 10
Cassandra C. Jones, Swarm, 2009 Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 24 inches, Edition of 2
entropy and order, between the qualities of singularity and unity in composition and the multiplicity inhered in built forms. A series of studies intended as working models for Swarm demonstrates the exponential complexity of such constructions — the title of the piece itself suggests something of a mitotic, biological proliferation. Swarm stresses the artist’s interest in experimenting with the sense of depth derived from playing with shapes and forms, repeating, interlocking, and fusing them in lattice-like or recursive patterns. Another way to say this is that Jones appears to frequently be interested in uncovering the oft-obscured connections between sketching, writing, and the photographic eye; a means to achieving this is via the distillation, animation, and proliferation of simple, classic forms found in photographs of every register: amateur, professional, snapshot, iconic, banal. For example, Jones has repeatedly emphasized her interest in engaging the vernacular and logic of stock photography — in the artist’s own words, “the images we look with” — through a series conceptual strategies.
Cassandra C. Jones, Swarm (Studies I & II), 2009
Of course, to derive new forms from manipulating bodies inevitably means to render those bodies visible in new ways, a mode of vision that speaks to the contract of seeing and being seen. Jones appears to have wisely extended this implication, coyly flexed in the earlier cheerleader rosettes within the context of pubescent sexuality, to a more general series of observations about the unsettled status of images. Although Disco Girl (2009), a suggestive animated loop, might be a knowing, raunchy wink, it is as much a meditation on the ways in which a form (here a glowing, radiant ball) achieves the mythic status of the sun or the moon. Animated in a rapidly flickering ring, female forms rotate around the icon, alternately caressing, wielding, hugging, offering the ball (and intimating more) to the viewer; their individual poses are barely discernible. The structure of Disco Girl is not unlike the earlier re-animations of the moon: a luminous, reflective body is situated amidst a rush of circling bodies, and one is forced to consider the shifting terms of figure/ground that the artist re/presents. Another animation, Car Fire (2009) operates according to the same principle, but the effect is much more ominous, suggesting car bombings, a state of crisis, and the spectacle of disaster imagery. With perhaps the one exception of Disco Girl, Jones’ newest compositions resist facile declarations about gendered vision, instead suggesting a more universal interest in the contours of vision, spectacle, and the phenomenology of vision itself. These reflections on perception are further fleshed out in a number of recent prints and animations: “glitches” occur when the eye tracks the lateral or slightly circular motion of animated birds in flight (Single Frame Animation series, all from 2008–9), resulting in the perception of a rhythm outside that of the flying bird itself; horses hanging in mid-leap mirror their title, themselves suspended in a fermata formation (Fermata, 2009); and perhaps most explicitly, the constellation of birds comprising Iris (also 2009) make visual reference to the very apparatus of the eye itself. Swarm, Fermata, and other works are linked through their nod to the long-running artistic obsessions with aesthetics, athletics, motion, and static form; one does well to consider Gabriel Orozco’s images of athletes merged with abstracted ellipsoid shapes, or Paul Pfeiffer’s iconic sports photographs, bodies of work Jones readily cites as early influences. Equally relevant, though not yet explicitly acknowledged, are the photomontages and collages of Russian Constructivist El Lissitzky, who, in moving away from the suprematism of Malevich in the early 1920s, developed his own visual p. 16
Cassandra C. Jones, Car Fire, 2009 Video (silent), Loop, Edition of 5
Cassandra C. Jones, Disco Girl, 2009 Video (silent), Loop, Edition of 5
language of abstracted form. Lissitzky’s Prouns offered a means for experimenting with depth and multiplicity of perspective, ultimately paving the way for increasingly elaborate productions — by Lissitzky and his collaborators — in many fields, including photography, lithography, typography, photomontage, cinema, theater, and exhibition design. Lissitzky’s own nuanced engagement with photography developed organically out of his work with these abstract forms, resulting in a series of photomontage and collage works the artist called fotopis. A neologism derived from the Russian zhivopis (painting or literally “live-writing”), Lissitzky’s fotopis addressed the productive tension existing at the confluence of painting, photography, and writing, in particular the manner in which an image was “painted” onto paper. By superimposing entire negatives onto a single visual field (as opposed to cutting out parts of pictures and reorganizing them), Lissitzky was able to condense and layer multiple registers of time into a single space. A 1926 composition by Lissitzky, Rekord (Record), illustrates this strategy. Negatives are collaged to form a dynamic composite image of a runner leaping over a hurdle in full stride against the background of an urban square. Rekord has its own rhythm, not unlike an animated loop, at once p. 22
El Lissitzky, Der Läufer (Rekord) (The Runner [Record]), ca. 1926 Gelatin Silver Print, 4.75 x 3.875 inches Image courtesy of SFMOMA
© 2009 Estate of El Lissitzky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Cassandra C. Jones, Fermata 3, 2008 Ebay Collection, 20 x 40 inches
dark and moody, yet also bursting with neon, an indicator of its then-contemporary status. The negative of the city has been exposed at least twice, creating a ghostlike and repeating landscape (THEATRE THEATRE!) through which the runner must pass. In the foreground, the lanes of the track blend into paved streets, while behind and literally within the figure, blurred lights, ostensibly the headlights of racing cars, whir from side to side in a motion similarly suggested by the athlete, whose limbs are nearly fully extended, a hovering body in flight. Through its flickering landscape and suggestion of rapid motion, Rekord suggests an explicit engagement with cinematic vision, a strip racing before the eye. In other manipulations of the same image, Lissitzky would literalize this connection even further by placing a vertical grid of white lines over the entire composition, suggesting a sequence of images, intimating that the work could function as a film still, at once conveying static and dynamic qualities (at least two versions of Rekord exist; the 1926 gridded composition, Runner in the City, is part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). Lissitzky’s Rekord dates to a moment when athletic beauty and praise of form were instrumentalized in sometimes alarming ways (the significance of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 Olympia should not be overlooked), but even in light of this historical context, it is important to stress Lissitzky’s interest in exploring the ways in which vision was constructed — a composite fabrication — by rapidly advancing cinematic and photographic technologies. Rekord’s runner is visually in dialogue with any number of Jones’ airborne bodies, perhaps most explicitly the leaping horses of Fermata. But more than a visual rhyme, Rekord hints at the unsettled status of the photograph in ways similar to Jones’ (re)animations, and her use of stock and professional photography. Significantly, Lissitzky sought to inscribe his hybridized images with an explicit politics, a means to consciousness. The question then inevitably arises: does contemporary photomontage or collage practice still carry anything of the political charge it once wielded? Commerce continues to slip in, reinforcing aura. In 2008, the National Hockey League debuted a snap-motion reanimation of their own, produced by the New York based ad agency Young & Rubicam. A slickly produced commercial of single frame photographs spanning several decades of champions brandishing the enormous trophy, rapidly animated p. 26
NHL Productions / Young & Rubicam, Cup Raise, 2008
in quick succession, Cup Raise creates a new narrative around the iconic status of the object itself. Response by fans was nothing short of ecstatic. While the commercial is seductive — a certain poetic reverie is encouraged — what seems decidedly settled is the question of ownership of the images themselves. Here, one might begin to unearth the political significance of Jones’ meditations on constructed vision: While never so explicitly stated, it may be that for Jones, the political meaning of photographic manipulation is something to be gleaned through the construction of the image itself — that the terms of production and consumption are to be intentionally scrambled. And it is here that in considering the ownership of an image, how it is constructed, how we as spectators constitute images and their meaning, that one might begin to define the politics of the “unsettled” image; the copy/paste aesthetic, the remix logic of the Photoshopped layer or the sampled riff (most recently and succinctly described by Lawrence Lessig as a series of “hybrid economies”) can then be set in relation to earlier artistic responses to industrialization, as embodied by the Russian Constructivists, Dada, or Bauhaus movements. In her nuanced conceptual approach to the uses and applications of stock photography, in her exploration of how they constitute — along with their audience — a new collective vision, Jones moves beyond the nameless aura of Delillo’s Barn and the seductive weight of the Stanley cup, suggesting that behind every mash up or remix, there lurks the unsettled status of the regulated reproduction, the copy, the link. It is an evolved gesture of appropriation, and like the runner’s hurdle, and one worth pausing to hover over.
Cassandra C. Jones, Lightning Drawing 1, 2009 Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 24 inches, Edition of 2
Cassandra C. Jones, Iris, 2009 Archival Inkjet Print, 24 x 24 inches, Edition of 2
Cassandra C. Jones Education 2004 Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. MFA. Interdisciplinary Fine Arts. 1998 California College of Arts, Oakland, CA. BFA. Photography/Glass. Solo Exhibitions 2009 Send Me a Link, Baer Ridgway Exhibitions, San Francisco, CA. 2008 Photos Taken, Nathan Larramendy Gallery. Ojai, CA. 2007 Rara Avis, Vanina Holasek Gallery. New York, NY. Rara Avis, Queens Nails Annex. San Francisco, CA. 2006 Pulse NY Art Fair with Nathan Larramendy Gallery. New York, NY. Cassandra C. Jones, Nathan Larramendy Gallery. Ojai, CA. 2005 Art Santa Fe Biennial/Project Space with Nathan Larramendy Gallery. Santa Fe, NM. Track and Field: Drawing from the Arena, Filmmakers/Outer Gallery. Pittsburgh, PA. Snap Motion Re-Animation, Filmmakers/New Melwood Gallery. Pittsburgh, PA. Selected Group Exhibitions/Screenings 2009 TBA Festival/Circles and Spinning Wheels, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Portland, OR. Appetite for Construction, Drake Hotel. Toronto, ON. FLEX, the Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival, Hippodrome State Theatre. Gainsville, FL. 2008 Hallway Project Installation, Baer Ridgway Exhibitions. San Francisco, CA. Ready Set Go, Baer Ridgway Exhibitions. San Francisco, CA. Gems, University of Western Washington. Bellingham, WA. PDX Film Festival, Northwest Film Center. Portland, OR. Stretching the Truth, John Michael Kohler Art Center. Sheboygan, WI. 2007 Glass Love, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. Santa Barbara, CA. p. 36
2006 2005 2004 p. 38
IEEE Infovis Conference on Information Visualization: Group Exhibition. Sacramento, CA. CHROMA Festival de Arte Audivisual. Guadalajara, Mexico. Selections: California College of the Arts Alumni, Walter Maciel Gallery. Los Angeles, CA. Drake Permanent Collection Show, Drake Hotel. Toronto, ON. Home Sweet Home, San Jose Institute for Contempoary Art. San Jose, CA. NYC-5: in conj. with a Keith Haring Retrospective, Egon Schiele Art Centrum. Český Krumlov, CZ. Cartune Xprez: Live Music/Animation/Performance, Touring Program. National. Beast, Fine Silver Gallery. Houston, TX. FLEX, Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival, WARPHaus Gallery. Gainsville, FL. Beast and the Beauty, Vanina Holasek Gallery. New York, NY. Bring it On, Monique Meloche Gallery. Chicago, IL. North West New Works, On the Boards. Seattle, WA. Best of the Fest, Touring Program. Throughout TX. Fantasy Island, The Drake Hotel/Public Spaces. Toronto, ON. “Oh the Places You’ll Go”, Small Change/Space 1026. Philadelphia, PA. MonkeyTown, Golan Levin Presents.... Brooklyn, NY. Time-Based Art Festival, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Portland, OR. Hybrid - Living in Paradox/Animation Festival, Prix Ars Electronica. Linz, Austria. Dallas Video Festival 18, Kalita Humphries Theater. Dallas, TX. Rhythm from Wreckage: The Art of Interruption, Bayennale/ATA. San Francisco, CA. Video Heart, Modern Formations. Pittsburgh, PA. PDX Film Festival/Invitational, Northwest Film Center. Portland, OR. Pittsburgh Biennial, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Pittsburgh, PA. Slow-Dance Recyttal, Touring Program. East Coast/USA and Canada. Pin up, Space Gallery. Pittsburgh, PA. Shock and Awesome, Regina Miller Gallery. Pittsburgh, PA. Andy Warhol Museum, AMP. Pittsburgh, PA.
Awards 2008 Focus On The Masters. Award of in-depth documentation of life’s work. Awarded by Donna Granata. Ventura, CA. 2004 Vira I. Heinz Endowment Fellowship. Awarded by Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Amherst, VA Selected Press and Publications 2008 Program Catalog, John Mikael Kohler Arts Center. Cover, March/April issue. Kim Beil. Artist Profile, Art LTD. West Coast Art + Design. March issue. Artist Bio, 2 page Spread. Beautiful/Decay. Issue W-Man Vs. Machine. 2007 Josef Woodard. Art for surf’s sake. Santa Barbara News Press. Nov. 30. Ruth Lopez. Show stoppers, TimeOut Chicago. January 4-10 issue, Art & Design Section. 2006 Leigh Anne Miller. Satellite Shows/Pulse, Art in America. May Issue, Front Page Section. Simon Herbert. A New Buzz in Paradise, Lifescapes: West Coast Art+Design. May Issue. Josef Woodward. Cassandra C. Jones at Nathan Larramendy Gallery, Artweek: The National Voice of West Coast Contemporary Art. Feb. Issue, Featured Article. 2005 Molly Freedenberg. Rah! Rah! What?, VC Reporter. Dec. 8, Art and Culture Section. 2004 Erin Lawley. Art Exhibition is Shocking and Awesome, Pitt News. Apr. 6, A&E Section. Online Reviews 2009 Christopher Jones. Right Now: Appetite for Subversion. www.stylenorth.ca. Posted Mar. 2. 2008 Xeni Jardin. Cassandra C. Jones Exhibit (art). BoingBoing.com. Posted Sept. 2. 2007 Ashley Tibbits. Cassandra C. Jones: Photos Taken. flavorpill.com. Dec.12 DailyServing.com. Cassandra C. Jones, artist profile and review. Posted May 29. 2007 Gae Savannah, NYArts Mag. Blog. TOP TEN NEW YORK. Posted March 1. Cat. Art Fairs Steve MacDonald, ArtBusiness.com. San Francisco Art Galleries - Openings: Queens Nails Annex Review. Posted Feb. 2. 2006 Sean Carroll, Glass Tire: TX Visual Art Online. Tasty Tread: Houston. Posted Sept. p. 40
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Essay written by James Merle Thomas. Exhibition catalog published in conjunction with "Send Me a Link", a solo show featuring the work of Ca...
Published on Aug 1, 2009
Essay written by James Merle Thomas. Exhibition catalog published in conjunction with "Send Me a Link", a solo show featuring the work of Ca...