Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ernest Jolly's Unfinished Labors

Ernest Jolly
Disco ball, flocking, wire, leather thread, and foam
Dimensions variable
One has to marvel at the inscrutability of the sculptures and installation Ernest Jolly includes in "The Labor Party," his current solo exhibition at Patricia Sweetow Gallery. "Carry Me Home," a wheelbarrow fashioned of frosted Plexiglas and metal, and "Limbo," an installation featuring a half-flocked disco ball spinning above leather punching bags, are compelling and surreal creations. Yet I connected neither to the plight "of the black agricultural worker in the Southern United States before the First World War," their conceptual substance according to the gallery's press release, which almost reads as if it describes a piece of choreography or theater.
"The punching bags represent the hero of the field laborer, a Black Prize Fighter, whose strength was respected in a world where the laborer was powerless. If only for a brief moment, and with great cathartic justice, The Prize Fighter could break the color barrier, by competing with, and potentially beating the white fighter. [...] The globe, while being a ubiquitous object at dance halls, also gives voice to the specific dance 'Limbo' - dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and when cleared is considered the triumph of life over death. In Jolly's 'Limbo' the transformation of hope, life, and place are revolving in his disco sun, casting an eclipse in a profound struggle for life."
None of those rich details come across in the work, but if Jolly's wheelbarrow were used as a theatrical prop or his installation as a setting, the objects would acquire their conceptual significance in the context of a performed narrative. As is, displayed in the vitrine-like white cube, they're merely esoteric curiosities, wholly dependent on the words of the artist, curator, or critic to provide a particular meaning. Jolly is a musician as well as an artist; I'd like to see him create a more fully realized production: a video with an original score, or even a collaboration with a choreographer on a live performance.

Ernest Jolly
"Carry Me Home"
Acrylic, wood, metal and rayon
Dimensions variable
Ernest Jolly's work is on view at Patricia Sweetow Gallery (77 Geary Street, San Francisco) through February 11.

Image credit: courtesy Patricia Sweetow Gallery website

1 comment:

Donald Frazell said...

As an artist we are but filters, we develop our instinct by learning of our world but use the things we know, we use, we live with and understand. What does this guy know about anything, let alone what he claims here?

Artistes must stop using others, thats a form of theft, of relying on others experiences for ones own benefit, plagiarizing. If you dont know enough of the world to use what you know to find a common humanity, Perhaps you should take time off, get a job, Be responsible and perhaps someday learn what these things are. And feel life rather than attempt to appropriate one

Art is a privilege, stop thinking you can relate to anothers true misery, when you are just being a baby.
Grow up.