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Jennifer Bolande’s Landmarks at the ICA


“Landmarks” at the ICA is the first major survey of Jennifer Bolande‘s influential works, mostly of photos re-imagined as objects and vice versa.

Jennifer Bolande speaking at the ICA walk-through.

The exhibit of 40 works, curated by Nicholas Frank, is better than my experience at the artist’s walk-through suggested. But I went back again because I found myself thinking about Bolande (pronounced bo-LAND-dee) in relation to contemporary work I have been seeing around town. Bolande’s work on exhibit is from a 30-year period beginning in 1980.

Jennifer Bolande, Cascade, 1987, Duratrans, 144 x 36 inches, photo courtesy ICA
Matt Giel’s endless seascape, plus a pin-up version with real t-pins and unexposed t-pin shapes on the print.
Alanna Lawley’s installation of faux domestic spaces was like a stage-set.

Specifically, I was interested in returning because of the conversation in my head between Bolande’s photographic inquiries and those of Matt Giel and Alanna Lawley, who are questioning the flat photograph and what it represents. An installation in New York by Jon Kessler (Salon 94) that Roberta and I saw Tuesday went even further, using surveillance camera projections to confuse reality and unreality on video screens (more on that in another post).

A lot of Bolande’s work that I couldn’t quite navigate during the artist’s walk-through, particularly the photos, perked up nicely on my revisit. A series of photographed diptychs compare moonscapes, sponges (I think they were sponges) and microphones, pulling them enough out of context for the jokey comparisons to raise questions about how we understand what we see in a photo at the same time that they question who owns territory.

Jennifer Bolande, Movie Chair, 1984, Wooden chair, velvet seat, bronze, enamel pt, light stands, lights, pedestal (photo by Roberta)

Bolande spotlights a red velvet chair, emblazoned with the word MOVIE rolling across the back like DIRECTOR or like a movie credit, and made unsittable by two Paramount mountains on the seat, turning the set-up into the movie set, the movie screen, the movie theater and the movie itself . This was by far my favorite work of hers, filled with the love of the movies, and the how cinematic experience becomes a reality in our minds.

Jennifer Bolande, Appliance House, 1998-9, Duratrans photographs, in custom stainless steel lightboxes, 91 x 59 x 5 inches (that’s Ingrid Schaffner off to the side, pointing)
Jennifer Bolande, Appliance House detail, showing as windows film rolls the artist took of appliance displays in store windows at night

In Appliance House, she uses photos of appliance storefronts filled with washing machines to suggest the windows of the iconic Modernist building Lever House, in a deft bit of socio-political commentary.

Jennifer Bolande, Milk Crown, 1987, Cast Porcelain, 7 inch diameter

The show is uneven, with obscure and glib bits.  On a whim I tried out the phone commentary, which is by Bolande herself. But the numbers on the wall took me to commentary that didn’t match the works I was looking out. Was this a joke? Probably an installation error. But much of the exhibit is witty and dense with ideas that paved the way for the current explorations into the nature of photographs and Pop culture images. I liked that. My main complaint is that so much of the work is chilly. When I look at the younger artists plowing similar territory, I see romance, disappointment, anger and fear. I prefer the emotional engagement.

The exhibit is up until March 11, 2012.