Artist: Joan Jonas
Exhibition title: After Mirage
Venue: Sant’Andrea De Scaphis, Rome, Italy
Date: February 17 – March 19, 2016
Photography: Roberto Apa and Gilda Aloisi, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise
Sant’Andrea de Scaphis is pleased to present After Mirage, a solo exhibition by American artist Joan Jonas, a groundbreaking figure of video and performance art.
As an independent and alternative artist-run gallery space, 112 Greene Street helped define SoHo in the 1970s. Owned and run by sculptor Jeffrey Lew with Gordon Matta- Clark and Alan Saret, it was a meeting place and site of multidisciplinary exchange and collaboration for experimental artists, choreographers and musicians. Originally an untitled improvisation by Joan Jonas and the artist James Nares, After Mirage was first performed in 112 Greene Street in 1976. The performance borrowed the tall sculptural cones of Mirage, an earlier performance from the same year, that she and Nares used as musical instruments and amplification devices for sound and voice.
After Mirage, as it was later named, was translated into a minimalist installation at 112 Greene Street and was comprised of a monitor showing Jonas’s video May Windows (1976) next to two circles of cones, one set made of paper, the other made of metal. A reoccurring leitmotif in Jonas’s practice, cones have often served multiple functions as sound device, sculptural object, stage prop and allusion to elements of the natural world such as trees and volcanoes. The installation at Sant’Andrea de Scaphis recreates the metal cones from the 1976 installation in a single circle alongside the video May Windows.
Following a trip to Japan in 1970 where Jonas purchased her first Sony Portapak, she states that she began making “little films […] with the qualities peculiar to video—the flat, grainy, black-and-white space; the moving bar of the vertical roll; the closed circuit with instant feedback. Camera deck, monitor/projector and artist formed a circle of circuitry.” May Windows features two tall white cones, barely decipherable in the heightened contrast of the black-and-white video that examines changes in sound and light from Jonas’s home studio. Though the film is purposefully so overexposed that the picture plane becomes void of depth, Jonas nonetheless makes space legible through sound– opening and closing the windows in her loft, walking around the room whistling a tune, the sound of dogs barking in the street, whispering or recreating sounds of a foghorn by blowing through the cones behind the camera.
Jonas’s multidisciplinary works cut across a range of influences and concerns spanning from the environment, to concepts of gender, to Japanese Noh and Kabuki theater, Modernist film, folk traditions and oral histories, poetry and literature. Despite these disparate interests, After Mirage exemplifies Jonas’s fundamental bricolage approach in translating non-linear performance into video-performance into single-channel video into installation and vice versa, defying categorization and crating infinite ways of experiencing her work with each new iteration.
Joan Jonas (born 1936) lives and works in New York. Her first solo exhibition was in Philadelphia in 1972, and since that time she has presented her work in one-person exhibitions and performances hundreds of times internationally. In 2015, she was the United States’ representative at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, where her work at the American pavilion received special mention. She has been represented in Documenta in Kassel, Germany, six times since 1972, and has had major retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; HangarBicocca, Milan; Konsthall Malmö, Sweden; and the Queens Museum of Art, New York. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Jonas’s most recent solo exhibitions include those at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (January 23 – April 3, 2016) and a forthcoming exhibition at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montréal, (April 27 – September 18, 2016).