JENNIFER NEVITT: THE SKY IS A SHROUD
3rd Floor Emerging Artist Series
Opening reception: Friday, February 27 | 7 – 9 pm
Artist talk: Thursday, April 9 | 7 pm
Artworks . . . always try to tell us something about our own surroundings: they open up potential worlds that strangely resemble the ones we live in.¹
Jennifer Nevitt’s installations, paintings, and sculpture refer both directly and indirectly to the spaces we occupy, both physically and psychologically. Utilizing common materials related to these environments, her work is concerned with the temporal nature of the body and the notion of acting an as ever-changing vessel.
Many artists have been fascinated with material understanding and process and how this relates to the human body and the environments we inhabit. They have also been driven to specific materials and how these materials behave—their strengths, limitations, and possibilities—and how these can be applied and utilized both physically and conceptually to an evolving artistic practice.
As Nevitt states:
The origin of everything that I make hinges on the notion of two definite “knowns”—that of our shared human existence and mortality. The material balance present in my practice fundamentally begins with these two views. In addition, I also consider the act of remembering—as I understand it. I am interested in a strange, quiet element concerning the echo of being, of others that have lived, and those that are on their way. This is a history and a future that is absorbed in the natural world, hence my material and theoretical approach to art making. I find that the work I understand as the most successful combines seemingly incongruent and reduced materials that coalesce into a balanced relationship.
For some artists, experimentation with material is completed simply for investigative purposes to determine physical or aesthetic appropriateness, such as the very painterly activity of combing pigments to obtain a desired color. Testing the material is a precursor to the creation of the work to insure that the execution will be successful. For other artists, such as Jennifer Nevitt, material experimentation is not merely a preparatory step toward completing a work with a predetermined outcome. For Nevitt, experimentation with materials is instead the process that allows for both unanticipated possibilities and planned outcomes that become her work. The materials she uses in the creation of her objects and installations are often recognizable materials such as wood, clay, graphite, gauze, or twine, many having a connection to the natural world in some respect. In her evolving relationship with material, various elements may be integrated to great effect. For example, in one work, gauze is combined with aluminum leaf, two ostensibly contrasting materials. The leaf, similar in nature to gold or silver leaf, seems to be pressed into the gauze, as if it was melted and poured into the surface variations and voids present in the gauze. At once, this imbues the work with a sense of lightness but also adds material and visual weight. Although its actual physical weight is miniscule, it nevertheless forms and contorts the gauze with a draping effect, talking the lightest of materials and providing a presence that is unexpected. One of these works sits in front of multiple lengths of jute twine, attached to the wall via a line of common nails. This provides an interesting sense of depth with contrasting colors and textures that seem to disregard their material differentiation and function exceptionally well as a balanced whole. Another piece made in a similar fashion flanks this, separated by a graphite drawing. In this piece, a dense, black rectangle occupies nearly all of the space on the paper in which it was drawn with the edges appearing as if they were brushed. Positioned as they are, these works begin to act as a single installation, layering over each other in a manner suggestive of an interior environment—that of possibly an array of windows or other domestic interiors.
Another combination of works at once suggests experimentation with color theory and a sense of material degradation. Here, six panels are arranged in a grid adhered to the wall. Each panel is made of heavy paper, folded and creased into specific sections or divisions. Within each of these divisions, varying colors occupy the space in a similar fashion to the aforementioned graphite work—solid, dense color with feathered edges, filling nearly all the space each is given. All of these vary formally, with many rectilinear forms and one panel containing triangles. Each of these appears to strike a thoughtful balance of color, chosen and mixed specifically to create or sustain a sense of balance and equilibrium. Situated on the floor directly in front of this installation is a work executed in clay. Formed in a plaster mold a number of days prior to the exhibition’s opening, this piece takes the form of a wooden oar commonly used for boating. Executed in actual size, this piece will dry, crack, and eventually break over the course of the exhibition—alluding to time, a journey, or the interaction between human and the natural world. Given the choice of material, this work of course takes on a very fragile nature, taking on the appearance of extended history and deterioration over a very short amount of time.
In another installation, the viewer in confronted with three logs, cut from trees to an average height of three feet. These stand vertically, void of any branches, with the top portion of each stripped of its bark and burned and blackened. Situated in a triangle formation, these seem to stand guard over a ceramic vessel situated between them. Resting inside of this bowl are a multitude of bonze acorns, shiny and gleaming in contract to both the bowl in which they reside and the surrounding logs.
Independently and collectively, Nevitt’s exhibition The Sky is a Shroud speaks to ideas of permanence, transformation, alternation, decay, and the life cycle present in nature.
– Kris Douglas, Chief Curator
1. Massimiliano Gioni, “Your Now Is My Surroundings” in Monument to Now, ed. Jeffrey Deitch, Athens: DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, 2004.
Image: Jennifer Nevitt, Seen from the Shore, 2015, mixed media, dimensions variable (detail).
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jennifer Nevitt received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1996 and a MFA from the University of Minnesota in 2011. She has participated in the exhibitions This From That, Kiehle Gallery, St Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN; Tenantless Pause, Soo Vac, Minneapolis, MN; Space between the Commas, Soap Factory, Minneapolis, MN; Vapor, Foxtax Gallery, Minneapolis, MN; Pop up Pleasure Society, Shoebox Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, among others. She lives and works in Minneapolis, MN.
3rd FLOOR EMERGING ARTIST SERIES
Rochester Art Center continually strives to engage visitors of all ages in the creation, contemplation, and appreciation of the visual arts. As a non-collecting institution, the Art Center focuses it efforts on presenting temporary exhibitions throughout the year featuring established local, national, and international artists, as well as emerging artists from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of media.
In 2004, Rochester Art Center initiated the 3rd Floor Emerging Artist Series—an exhibition program dedicated to promising young artists working in the state of Minnesota. Since its inception, the series has reflected shifting trends in contemporary artistic practice and production, and has helped to facilitate the creation of new bodies of work in a variety of media including photography, installation, sound, painting, drawing, sculpture, and film. Now entering our eleventh year, the 3rd Floor Emerging Artist Series continues to support emerging artists and to provide a dedicated forum for the exhibition of new work.
Organized by Rochester Art Center and curated by Kris Douglas, Chief Curator
The 3rd Floor Emerging Artist Series is made possible through funding by the Jerome Foundation.