Jillian Conrad


December 3, 2011 through February 7, 2012

Jillian Conrad ARTFORUM March 2012

Jillian Conrad at Devin Borden Gallery

When creating her sculptures,structures, and installations Jillian Conrad’s concerns are consistently formal, something like a laudation for the object in its very objectness. Employing a variety of media–wood, Plexiglas, rocks, sheets of foam, carpet remnants–Conrad thoughtfully explores the emotional impact that lies within her motif – be it an object, landscape, or still life — often translating these subjects into objects that are clearly referential while, at the same time, reduced to the barest line.Despite its having been reduced to a dull black silhouette upon a sheet of thick foam, for instance, the sublimity of a distant mountain range shines through its crude construction.

Taking in Jillian Conrad’s visions, we experience them viscerally, not merely visually.  Many deceptively crude-seeming installations have been carefully constructed first as a three dimensional object that is then translated into a two dimensional image. Such transformation is a subject that lies at the heart of her formalist project, one that toys with the boundaries of where a sculpture ends and a picture begins. One construction, entitled Power Projection, consists of a neatly carpentered wooden box with a pile of rocks set on a shelf within. Utilizing an opaque projector focused on the rock pile, Conrad casts a projected image upon a vertical surface within the structure. The viewer is thus presented with a work in which the real rocks have been turned into an image, while the quavering light (the stuff of images) that plays upon them somehow brings these lifeless things to life.

Jillian Conrad "Flag" at Devin Borden Gallery

In the most recent of her works displayed in the gallery, Jillian Conrad pushes the idea of illuminating and transforming the object into an image even further, as she explores the properties of fabric. Though flowing fabric is certainly an unconventional medium for sculpture, its surface qualities, fiber composition, texture, and emotive tonalities serve the artist’s ends here quite well. By affixing a torn swatch of wool–a material composed of a sturdy weave–to a slide that is subsequently projected, we are again invited to consider the objectness of the image before us: the tiny hair-like strands that slightly flutter from the projector’s fan. By bestowing a lightness of being and ephemeral quality on something tactile and solid, Jillian Conrad asks us to marvel at what we are accustomed to take for granted. Her works keep viewers in suspense as they function simultaneously as painting, drawing, and sculpture. Jillian Conrad explores these boundaries, while at the same time exploring the boundaries of the ordinary things around us. This is territory we can’t help but be familiar with, but suddenly, thanks to the artist’s direction, it acquires new interest and meaning.

Jillian Conrad is a recipient of an Individual Artist Grant Award. This grant is funded by the city of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.

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