“A frivolity that refuses to take seriously things which are not serious can be profound,” said Auden, something I thought about when face-to-face with Elizabeth Jaeger’s life sized reclining nude at Interstate Projects in Bushwick.
This woman is ceramic and painted black with a matching raven wig and blue glass eyes. All around her on the clear tabletop are wobbly hand-built ceramic pots—amphoras and milk jugs—glazed a matte black with high gloss rims. The way the figure and pots are made have a kind of awkward freedom, as ceramic on that scale can—showing the patted joints, the slight structural sag of a figure molded as moist surface.
The whole affair feels funerary, but like those life-sized Etruscan figures who smile simple-mindedly into death. Everything has a vitality, a kind of shimmering charge, which is “silly” in the ways that life is silly when confronted with any measure of permanence. Maybe I’ve been thinking too much about the Paul McCarthy life-casts at Hauser & Wirth, but I’d say all life-sized figurative sculptures have something to do with death.
This brings to mind the late Bay Area sculptor Robert Arneson, who has a show of early work up at David Zwirner now. Both these artists exploit clay for the messy fun latent in its materiality, easily moving from sensual slip to scatological mounds. He is best known for playing with memorializing forms, the honorific bust meant to show a strong unchanging visage turned into a violently anguished portrait of cancer.
Jaeger is a young sculptor that makes things, and seems to have fun doing it. Her figures frolic in the existential non-place of the gallery or art fair and have a distinctive enigmatic power. Something of their assured abandon seems instep with the generation of artist emerging now who are increasingly producing things that, formally and conceptually, don’t point outward to “art world’ discussions, but inward to the larger dialogue of making, thinking, and being
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contributed by Jarrett Earnest