A contour line around a figure will show no internal details, nothing that is overlapping or hidden inside the overall shape. It is a mystery with few clues. To put it another way, if you take a photographic image of, say, a figure kneeling, with arms crossed, and draw an outline around the form, you will be left with a blob with a smaller blob extending from the top.
Fill in this shape with ink or graphite and what you have might be something like a shadow. But a shadow of what, exactly?
It took me a while as I took my first walk around Jennifer Jenkins' exhibition to come to the conclusion that probably what I was looking at was the shadows of cats. And this cat imagery struck me as an interesting connection between these two exhibitions. And I also remembered when I noted the works made with machine embroidery, that I had reviewed a previous exhibition by Jenkins the same year that I reviewed the first Indian print exhibition.
Jenkins makes these simple shadow-like cat shapes that she refers to as "lay forms," in several different media: with intense graphite and ink cross-hatching in "Lay Form (Arc)," "Lay Form (Cower)" and "Lay Form (Flip)"; and in India ink in a series of 16 smaller works. There is also a series of very small intaglio prints, and one of these "Lay Form (Flip 2 Stages)" shows two tiny images that may be read as the way cats shift their position when they sleep. In these prints, Jenkins shows herself to be a master of the miniature.
The final media is machine embroidery employed as a method of shading the form with irregular colored lines. "Lay Form (Tiptoe)" is a large machine embroidery work in which the cat shape is arched with two extensions that read as front and back legs stretching to two points.
These "lay forms" could seem benign if they were alone. But there are a few representational works in the show that suggest a more sinister reading. "Portrait Series 1-6" consists of six intaglio prints of realistic and rendered in detail faces of cats, each wearing different headgear, from rabbit ears to a witch's hat. "Squirrel Doily," is a large crocheted 8-pointed star on the floor and at each of the 8 points lays an identical black squirrel.
These life-size sculptures would appear to be casts of a taxidermy squirrel. "Lay Form (Hang II)" is a small intaglio print in two sections. The top image is of silhouette shapes hanging from a tree. The bottom image is of the head and front legs of three cats hanging down as if from their tails.
Seen in this context the "lay forms" cease to be read as decorative silhouettes and become profoundly disturbing. The word "lay" as meaning beaten down or spread on a surface suggests the flattened shapes of road-kill. Or perhaps we are at the scene of a crime where the victim is having its fallen outline drawn by an indifferent police inspector.
Drawings, prints and mixed media by Jennifer Jenkins at S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, 9 W. Henry St. through May 8
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