Past: March 2 → May 18, 2013
An essential and unique figure in photography since the 1970s, Jan Groover has left an important collection of photographic works from a career which spanned forty years, terminating after the artist’s death in 2012.
Though she resided in France during the last twenty years of her life, Groover’s work had not been publicly exhibited in Paris since her last show at the Sonnabend Gallery in 1979. Jan Groover’s photography is present in the collections of many prominent American museums and became the subject of a solo exhibition at the MoMA in 1987. It is with great pride that we revisit her photographic works of dazzling pictorial quality.
Born in 1943 in Plainfield, New Jersey, Jan Groover abandoned abstract painting in the early 1970s to explore photography, a medium she felt afforded her a sense of liberty that painting lacked in comparison.
Jan Groover’s first photographs are marked by artistic currents contemporary to her practice — most apparent are references to minimalism, which privileged the disappearance of the artistic subject and championed a more phenomenological relation between the spectator and his surrounding space.
Groover’s point of departure in her practice quickly became apparent: her rigorous approach to photography sought to challenge its limits as an artistic medium. She explicitly deserts the traits of documentation so inherent to photography and explores, instead, the relational nature of elements in an image or groups of images. The challenge is to develop a vocabulary specific to photography through which the photograph is able to transcend the wear of a spectator’s successive gaze. The artist took calculated steps in developing her practice, slowly maturing her body of work, and it was not until 1975 that Jan Groover garnered recognition.
Groover’s polyptychs exhibitied in museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cocoran Gallery in Washington, the George Eastern House in Rochester are enigmatic groups of two or three colour large-scale photographic reproductions. The polyptychs appear visually disconcerting and frames various public spaces from a given point, in turn interrupted by elements altering the image’s composition. As a notice against the seeming transparency of the photographic image, Groover advised not to consider her landscapes as mere perspectives on reality but rather as the formal structuring of photographic space, considering the capacity of her images in tackling new challenges of its own making.
A turning point occurred in 1978, during which the artist began her first still-life photographs, a genre continually revisited throughout the course of her career. It is interesting to note that this development paralleled and orientated itself against the Pictures Generation of New York. While artists such as Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Sherry Levine embraced pictorial imagination in an attempt to both short-circuit and alienate itself from the history of photography, Jan Groover affirms photography’s historical legacy and continued in its vein. Her work explicitly draws from the work of masters like Edward Weston — peppers — Paul Duterbridge — coloured compositions with kitchen utensils — Alfred Stieglitz — interest in bodies and faces — while tackling a wide range of photographic genres, inevitably returning to still-life and its compositional potential.
The diversity of techniques employed by Jan Groover during her remarkable career has left behind impressive landmarks to trace the artist’s development. Driven by a moral imperative to continually advance her practice despite all risks, she often went against the dominant artistic grain. Around 1980, she momentarily abandoned colour to experiment with platinum print, a technique deemed incredibly anachronistic at the period. It was also after the purchase of a panoramic camera — camera de banquet — popular at the turn of the twentieth century, that Groover abruptly decided to move to France in 1991 with her husband painter and art critic Bruce Boice. Her work has since been presented in various prominent galleries and museums, including the MoMA in New York which consecrated a solo exhibition to the artist in 1987.
Having adopted French nationality in 2005, Jan Groover continued her ever-evolving experimentation of the photographic medium and left behind a body of work whose historical impact is undeniable. It is with great honour that we celebrate the photography of Jan Groover, whose work remains largely unfamiliar in France, and to make homage to a photographer by which subsequent generations of artists have, consciously or not, been impressed.
Opening Saturday, March 2, 2013 5 PM → 9 PM