Warp (installation detail), 2017, mixed mediaJean Blackburn
March 3 – April 23, 2017
Abraham Adams – Critics’ Pick, ARTFORUM
Known for her work that addresses the domestic, Blackburn creates fabric elements from bed sheets, curtains, tablecloths, napkins, etc. that weave through the entire installation of various domestic furnishings. The cross-lacing warp and weft bring individual parts into tension, producing a mesh of interdependencies and connections. Other objects mutate, are reused, or devolve. Wood from a dresser’s drawers becomes a latticed doorframe and a pile of sawdust. Blackburn explores the complexities of our concept of home as a place that may or may not live up to the shelter, comfort, and familiarity we seek. In these fraught times, the home is contested ground, redefined by issues of identity and community. Conflict and poverty create refugees. Familial stability is in flux as children grow up. Everything is renegotiated and redefined. Materials grow into each other as boundaries move and new structures emerge at the cost of older ones. Blackburn’s paintings and works on paper, presented alongside the installation, begin with images scanned from home-furnishing catalogues like Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn. In subsequent layers, stencils and hand painting allude to various means and scales of production; each room is a negotiation between individual invention and cultural prescription. Our initial experiences become templates that shape future interactions and understandings. The home is at once our personal refuge and construct of social identity. The unreliability of narratives and their instability interest Blackburn most. She pushes objects and images until they are on the verge of a multitude of possibilities. The works reveal embedded assumptions, associations, and deep poetic resonances in the mundane. Jean Blackburn has exhibited her work in venues in the United States and abroad, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Neuberger Museum, the De Cordova Museum, and the Aldrich Museum and numerous galleries. She is a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she has taught since 1982. When not in the studio or the classroom, she may sometimes be found working as an archaeological illustrator. Work has taken her to New Mexico, Petra, Jordan, and most recently to an Etruscan dig in Tuscany.