Jennifer Bornstein’s work has consistently dealt with the notion of obsolescence. This month, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the artist continues this pseudo-forensic body of work, that records the legacy of her father, a scientist specializing in collagen research. Through her most recent body of work, Bornstein turns her father into the subject of study, evoking his presence and his work through a mixed-media installation of works on paper, plaster sculptures and film projection.
Continuing her earlier work in etching, this series of encaustic rubbings capture the tactile textures of personal objects from her father’s daily life. An abstracted inventory of clothing, books, 16mm film vintage cameras, cassette tapes, and various other objects have been etched in blue pigment over thick Kozo paper, worn in and wrinkled like old skin or crumpled clothing, with rubbings of his hiking boots and wristwatches taking on the characteristics of skeletal X-rays. The decision to display these unframed lends the works raw, sketchbook aesthetic, almost like visual notations, permitting the viewer close proximity to the surface, where the blue pigment appears like atoms coming into and out of being, while at a distance one can see each object in dimensional form, culminating as a cohesive checklist of items, transforming even the most banal of objects such as vacuum parts into impressions of abstract beauty.
This “slow art” process of manual rubbing, in a sense, partakes in the oft laborious, time-intensive nature of scientific research. Bornstein uses encaustic, which is historically significant and one of the oldest forms of art making. It is also etymologically significant, as it originates from the Greek word enkaustikos, meaning to “burn in.” Thus, the reinvigoration of an old practice for the purpose of recording and remembrance serves as a kind of mummification of her father’s belongings. Close by, the makeshift plaster sculptures of standardized psychological and performance tests are the sets for the film work, of which Bornstein casts her father’s genetically engineered mice as participants. These reenactments place the mice in situations of anxiety, memory recall and motor tests; as the mice scurry along these structured environments, the artist herself is engaging in her own reflexive tests through the act of reiteration and retracing.
A narrative emerges through this accumulation of objects that speak to ephemeral, everyday experiences. Bornstein cherishes certain possessions and insights that even their possessor would have taken for granted. The observer, in turn is observing her observations, and through this context one comes close to an authentic glimpse of a subject held dear by the artist. This is an exhibition about enduring love, trading overtly showy sentiment for a profoundly devotional and intimate light.
— J. Holburn
Jennifer Bornstein [Gavin Brown’s Enterprise]