Luis Jacob, Veronica #4, 2011
The exhibition’s title in itself was enough to excite the visitor’s imagination: A finger in the pie, A foot in the door, A leg in quicksand references states of being involved, being in-between and sinking repeatedly throughout. Several works at the start of the show reflected the tensions between physicality and pictorialism which are central to Jacob’s oeuvre.
The colour photograph Mottled Form (2007) – a body draped in fabric and nestled symbiotically in a designer chair – contrasted with the subdued shades of an auratic painting from the series They Retreat to the Home of Their Waiting (2008).
Next came the 84-part collection Album VII (2008), which extended over two grey walls as an L-shaped frieze. For his Album series (2000–ongoing), Jacob collects images of architecture, design, bodies and art works by theme and then groups them together to create an open visual narrative. One laminated sheet brings together illustrations of a sculptural model, an ensemble of amorphous art objects on plinths and a girl feeling the shape of a natural history replica with her hands. Another set shows a group of veiled women sitting on the floor with unidentified shrouded objects. Sculptures from antiquity to the present are also frequently cited. The appeal of this visual atlas lies in the possibilities for narrative between objects and bodies which open up to each other in the work. They become the arena for meanings, ambivalences and contradictions while revealing themselves as malleable and vulnerable.
The linearity of the serpentine exhibition architecture was cleverly interrupted by a dialogical hanging. At one such point, two paintings from the series They Sleep With One Eye Open (2008) hung on opposite walls and vied for the viewer’s attention with their explosive colours. In formal terms, these large-format works are based on radial batik patterns although their perfect surfaces seem borrowed from a motif made by a graffiti artist using an airbrush. Thanks to the typical centre spots of the tie-dye technique, the abstract fields of colour take on the appearance of animated beings with eyes that seem to look out at the viewer.
Luis Jacob, They Sleep With One Eye Open # 2, 2008
One had a similar feeling of being looked at with the three works from the Veronica series (all 2011) which were hanging in a row. An eye – with a slightly open mouth below it – forms the central motif of these graphic works on paper. The title refers to the legend of the shroud imprinted with the face of Christ which later became an art historical motif in painting, as the ‘true image’ (Latin/Greek: vera ikon). The status of art historical icons is addressed in greater depth in the large-format paintings from the series They Retreat to the Home of Their Waiting (2008). While these works reference Mark Rothko’s colour-field paintings of the mid 20th century, Jacob’s painterly interpretations are not exact copies but instead emphasize their distance from the originals. While exploring the complex relationship between viewer and image, these works seem to refer to a distinctive kind of liveliness and visual biography: to survival and a continued existence through mutations.
The exhibition ended with two computer-generated voices speaking from a black box. They belonged to the double video projection Without Persons (1999–2008), which uses the example of city life to describe situations of ‘being in the world’ and social interaction. On the screen, a pale yellow liquid moves in time with the voices.
This impression of a fluctuating, speaking mass detaches the idea of life and consciousness from the human body and moves this idea towards a fluid perceptive figure.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell
—by Cynthia Krell
First published in Issue 5, Summer 2012
by Cynthia Krell
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