Suddenly I don’t feel like I’m in Chinatown anymore. But I am on Eldridge Street.

The walk down the fifth floor hallway to David Lewis Gallery takes me to another place. And the tumbleweed of horsehair let’s me know I’m in the right place to see Gillian Jagger’s work. The space is as impressive as how well it suits the artist’s work. The trot from the train through the bustling crowd, past countless windows filled with hanging roasted ducks to the gallery is well worth it. The work Jagger has cultivated since the sixties is a testament to her craft and to a culture larger than herself.

You step into the atmosphere of Jagger’s vocabulary and it rewards you. Her planes of resin and plaster become those rolling fields out in Kerhonkson, on her farm. Surrounded by the mountains that become shadowed reflections of the work on the walls of David Lewis Gallery, you are transported into her sculptures through the mixing shadows of your legs onto the surface of the pieces. These oblong forms, covered in horsehair invite you to curl up underneath and feel safe. They hang, lean and float, standing strong as if to shield against an unknown predator. You’re a human or a horse; an eager creature in dialogue with the art.  

These monolithic pieces address a conversation parallel to that of artists’ like Jay DeFeo all the way to José Parlá. These artists are part of a practice that pushes the limits of their own bodies, because the weight of their compositions demands it of them. The payoff of course, is for the viewing pleasure and the chance to read into the surfaces. Hairs, a hoof print, a huge crack, all become beats and sounds with weight and visual significance. Sounds that aren’t there abound in the silence of David Lewis Gallery. I trace my steps over and over again as if the next time around I know the composition will teach me something new. That’s the successful conflict of Jagger’s work. The pieces are totally contemporary, details that suggest fossils, or ancient artifacts are treated in such away that they take on a life of yesterday’s reimagined wreckage. 

Gillian has such a wonderful way about speaking of her work; she is truly able to see it. In a small way, I feel lucky to be a part of her work and talk with her. “Shadows let us know that we are temporary.” Every inch of those pieces and every curatorial choice is such a labor of Gillian and David’s devotion to the work so as to let the viewer go with the work. She pushes to chase after her interest in losing a sense of time; the work becomes less an object and more a space to enter.  These pieces yearn for a sense of truth in their timelessness and allow the viewers to give themselves up to something other than the self.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell is an artist who lives in New York. More of his work can be viewed here …

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