Jenna Weiss at Grizzly Grizzly tries Xerox

While I was trolling around 319 N. 11th for November’s shows (now gone), I met the artist Jenna Weiss (Tyler MFA 2010) at Grizzly Grizzly. She was gallery sitting her own show and happy to have someone to talk to. The show, Two Dozen, was about multiples, and  the papers hanging on the wall were Xerox copies of hand-made works. They had that black, smudgy feel of crappiness even when the marks looked like they might be interesting in person.

Jenna Weiss and her stenciled wall at Grizzly Grizzly

Weiss said ruefully that the show was largely experimental, working through the ideas of two dozen–a nice number–and the idea of making marks by hand and then multiplying them via Xerox. Xerox, she discovered, was not kind to hand-made marks. I commiserated, having tried the Xerox route for Christmas cards in the distant past. I recalled the junky quality my sweet little earnest images took on as they emerged from the machine. So I agreed with her. The world of the sleek office product is no friend to quirkiness.

One of the reasons Weiss was using photocopies was their omnipresence in her work life (she works at the ICA). I didn’t quite understand why she was enamored of the number 24, maybe something mystical, but I did understand the attraction to the look-ma-no-hands printing method. I also enjoyed her interest in shapes as both positive space and negative space.

Jenna Weiss’s photocopies circled the gallery

Weiss also covered one of the walls in the gallery with stenciled Day-Glo orange lozenge shapes. I quite liked the effect, the in and out of the uneven color application, the regularity of the lineup, the unlikelihood of this color, shape and arrangement as a wallpaper pattern. I thought about how different these multiples are from Richard Artschwager’s crisp punctuation marks on the wall. But Artschwager, too, is interested in the shapes’ simultaneous expression as positive and negative shapes.

All in all, the orange wall was the hit of the show for me.

After I left the gallery, I remembered a very different Xerox experience during the Southern Graphics Conference 2010 in Philadelphia. The Printeresting posse got permission to photocopy some excellent art work and give the copies away for the show Copy Jam, which they curated and ran at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I picked one of Justin Quinn‘s Moby Dick-based text pieces and brought it home, thrilled to death with my little Xerox of an original work that I thought I might have seen a year earlier in Fleisher/Ollman Gallery‘s Rich Text show (Quinn made a lot of pieces in the same series).

I’m not sure what the lesson here is, other than like all media, Xerox is not for everything. And that awful office paper looks flimsy beneath subtle shades of inkiness. But I like how Weiss was game for trying it all out and seeing where it took her.

Jenna Weiss, Two Dozen, Grizzly Grizzly, ended Nov. 29.