As I entered Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the first thing I saw was Joan Jonas herself. She was sitting at a large desk, as if to see me down the rabbit hole of her exhibition, which highlights the magnitude of her sixty year career as a pioneer of video and performance art. In prelude to my sentiments about the show, I must mention that since going to the Venice Biennale, I have been in conversation about the emotional state of octogenarian women artists working in today’s age.
The gallery consists of three floors, each dedicated to several of Jonas’s large installation works and drawings. On the first floor is a welcoming committee of random artifacts, including large drawings, masks and papier-mâché animal heads, all whispering something on Jonas’s behalf. It is the first step into the unconscious. Upon entering the second floor, I discovered my favorite trend in curation, darkness. Could it be that darkness is the primal state which allows one, as a baby in a womb, to feel at peace long enough to surrender to art? If so, this must be what happened as I let my mind and body settle to the lull of Jonas’s voice in the first video installation work called “Reanimation (Under the Glacier)”:
“…There are special spots here where the “all” thought is manifest, in the elements themselves, places where fire has become earth, earth become water, water becomes air, and air becomes spirit and so on…”
At this point I mechanically took out my sketchbook and began to draw. Was the spirit channeling my hands?
By the time I was on the third floor, I was no longer certain of what was happening to me. A simple montage of images braided into narrative and sound quite literally had me foraging through dark forests with witches and shamans. Is this what it means to be eighty in New York City? Thank you Joan Jonas for the witching hour.
Show ends June 11, 2017.