Jeff Bailey Gallery is pleased to reopen after Hurricane Sandy, with a new and altogether different installation of Jackie Gendel’s paintings, now titled Revenge of the Same. The bulk of this exhibition has been painted since the hurricane closed the gallery and Gendel’s fall exhibition, Comedy of Manners. Revenge of the Same contains works both old and new, repainted and intervened upon, in an effort to register the emotional high water mark of the artwork rescue effort and the conviviality that the art community fostered after the storm. Paintings and works on paper will be exhibited both in the gallery’s main space and basement (which had been filled with seven feet of water).
Revenge of the Same lifts its B-movie-sequel-like title from the “return of the same”, a concept borrowed from Nietzsche, itself the subject of many returns, later lampooned by Borges. The gist of it is the myth of eternal recurrence; the metaphysical idea that in an infinite amount of time over a finite amount of space, things are bound to reoccur, to cycle around, to resemble themselves.
The irrationality of such cyclical thinking can be found in deeply rooted social rituals and practices, from beliefs about time, history and ecology, to the cultural recycling on display everywhere from store windows on Canal Street to 5th Avenue; it can explain, among other things, the sense of uncanny recognition when looking at- or making- an easel painting.
The false inevitability of such returns has been the subject of Gendel’s work throughout both incarnations of her exhibition. Much of her recent work makes contradictory use of two of modernity’s most common conventions of image production; she employs both serial repetition of form and the sequential image of narrative, using them simultaneously to unfold the implied relationship between narrative time and painterly process. This achieves a “Groundhog Day”-like effect in which a scene repeats albeit in slightly altered scenery, and increasingly nuanced but appreciable differences occur in the who, what, when, how, and ultimately, most importantly, “why”.
New paintings in the exhibition depict archers, views of bustling crowds framed through abstract geometries or broken waves, and at the “high water mark”, the repeated image of a woman carrying a man (later a man carrying a woman, and a woman carrying a woman) through waist-high waters. As in Gendel’s previous portraits, a change of gender or historical location may occur in a sleight-of-hand gesture of the brush, entire compositions lifted from art historical motifs may be repeated. Characters within Gendel’s narrative “revenge of the same” change roles between protagonists, victims and spectators, in addition to changing gender, ethnicity and origin.
This is Gendel’s third-and-a-half solo exhibition at the gallery, and her tenth overall. Recent solo exhibitions include Loyal Gallery, Malmö, Sweden and Bryan Miller Gallery, Houston, Texas. She currently has work on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina in Art on Paper 2012. Her work is included in the collections of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut and the Progressive Collection (US) and has been written about in Art in America, Artforum, The New York Times and The New Yorker. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her an Academy Award in Art in 2007. Gendel received her BFA in 1996 from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri and her MFA in 1998 from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
A catalogue with an essay by Colleen Asper has been published in conjunction with the exhibition. Some copies are available at the gallery, while others have drifted out to sea.