Sep 07 - Oct 20
by Daily Serving
As part of our ongoing partnership with Daily Serving, Art Practical is republishing Amelia Sechman's review "Nope,” on Jason Kraus's work at Jessica Silverman Gallery, which you can also read here at Daily Serving.
One of my favorite occurrences in the art world is when an artist acknowledges a viewer’s expectations and actively denies them. In a time seemingly ruled by art with high sensational value, I can’t help but root for the heroic and/or obstinate people unabashedly making minimalist, conceptual art that doesn't allow for easily digestible catharses. This is not to say that such work is underdeveloped or shallow; I think a closed door holds as much, if not more, mystery, potential narrative, and freedom to expand upon than an open door through which we can clearly see everything. It is the same closed door potential that completely saturates Edits, the current exhibition of Jason Kraus’s work at Jessica Silverman Gallery.
Inside the gallery, the installation is seductively minimal and almost entirely monochromatic. Extracted pieces of Kraus’s studio walls hang mounted in frames, the dry-wall marked with the charcoal smudges and traces of the artist’s process. A large-format black-and-white photograph titled An Empty Space (2012) documents the void created by hundreds of drawings made on Kraus’s studio wall where the charcoal that escaped the paper’s surface marks off the edges of the absent pieces of paper. The Richard Serra-esque drawing board learning in a corner reinforces the trompe l’oeil effect of An Empty Space, with the two objects acting as the signifier and signified of something that is much more abstract than the expected tangibility of a sign (such as a chair).
The real star of the show, however, is the pairing of two wooden crates sealed with combination locks and a framed envelope that Kraus mailed to Silverman. Completely
unassuming, the crates likely hold all the drawings whose traces we see in the surrounding works. The corresponding envelope contains the combination that opens the locks on the crates. This is a simple enough concept: there is a lock, and there is a combination that opens the lock. The punchline is that the two pieces cannot be acquired by the same person, ensuring that the crated drawings will never be revealed. I have to admit that the inner-brat in me loves this restriction. As I see it, Kraus is basically saying, “Oh, you wanted to see the art we’re talking about? Too bad.” Of course, the work should not simply be pigeon-holed in the sort of school-yard teasing with which I indulgently associate it. The dialogue between the works in Edit also heavily references the performative act of making art, emphasizing that the process can hold just as much importance as the final product.
Edits is not a show for those looking for an easy entry point or sensational reward from a viewing experience. The exhibition demands that viewers release their typically tight grasp on what part of the art-making process with which we think should be presented. It is also not pretentious or pretend to be something that it’s not. Instead, Kraus expands the aura of the show through omission and suggests to a viewer, “This is what I want you to think about.”