Queens Museum at Bulova Corporate Center
Informed by a Do-It-Yourself spirit, Jane South’s structures come from a combination of ample patience and basic engineering know-how. When her early use of industrial materials gave way to the more modest mediums of tape, balsa wood, and paper, South created a new language for exploring urban forms. Neither simply drawing nor sculpture, her constructions play on our sense of depth and perspective, their spindly shadows revealing an underlying fragility. Using the delicate flatness of paper to mimic the apparent solidity of architectural, technological, and industrial forms, they question things we take for granted–what is tenuous and what is substantial, what will perish and what will stand the test of time.
Evoking pylons, cranes, satellite dishes, and subway platforms, South’s structures suggest the industrial landscapes of both her birthplace of Manchester, England and of DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she currently resides. Her overlaid lattices, convex and concave basins, and cross-hatched shapes mimic the manufactured world. Like quotations of the city, they reflect more closely the way we actually experience our environment, in sections and snippets rather than as an overall whole.
From a distance, thousands of hand-painted lines give South’s relief sculptures the impression of solidity. On closer inspection, however, their resemblance to industrial devices falls away. Clinging to the wall by paper hooks and straight pins, these machines are incapable of producing anything. Like the fantastical devices invented by cartoonists Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson–incredibly complex contraptions designed to produce almost nothing–their output is questionable at best. Complicating the distinction between handmade and industrial, South’s apparatuses subtly examine our relentless desire to produce.
South’s freestanding sculptures reveal an opposite aspiration–to cage and contain. Whether they call to mind a cash register, slot machine or prison, these exploded forms appear to have tremendous weight. Like the overgrown versions of her smaller grids and radiuses, they push South’s folded-and-cut-paper technique to its physical limits. But their substance–or menace–is an illusion, contradicted by tenuous materials and indefinite meanings. Once again confusing the signifiers of strength and frailty, South fools our expectations of what is fleeting and what is real.
The Blumenfeld Development Group, Ltd. and the Queens Museum of Art.
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