Jennie C. Jones
Absorb/Diffuse
The Kitchen
NY Arts Magazine

Ever the student of the fissure where the physical permanence of material meets the ephemerality of the sonic, Jennie C. Jones’ new show at the Kitchen places the viewer within the divide between these two worlds. The gallery space serves as a venue to situate a series of paintings in direct relation to a darkly resonant sonic backdrop.

Jones has used a process she has dubbed “micro-sampling”. This appropriation borrows single notes from existing compositions, rather than whole musical phrases or measures. The artists sampled range widely from the great jazz composer Charles Mingus to musical genius J.S. Bach; while at the same time pulling from work by contemporary artists such as the XX and Edgar Meyer, to name a few. The sonic glue that Jones applies to hold all the samples together is a tendency towards deep, rumbling bass and intermittently placed ringing squeals and sharper pitches.

Entitled From The Low, Jones’ samples have been assembled into a collection of three hauntingly beautiful tracks. The work plays in stereo, both from a large square speaker in the far right corner of the exhibition space as well as from speakers placed above the viewer throughout the gallery.

As one stands alone in the gallery space, the intermittent silences between tracks in Jones’ sonic appropriation call to mind the pregnant silences often used to great effect in cinema. As I move about studying the painting works, the music starts up again; seemingly presenting ominous dramatic accompaniment to my movement around the exhibition space. The low bass selected by Jones is a fitting partner to the deeply receding visual voids she creates out of black acrylic on canvas and sound reduction paneling. Lit evenly from above so that their resulting shadow presence on the wall announces their object-hood, these paintings both operate as contemplative minimal abstractions as well as structural intrusions into the gallery space, subtly dampening the resonance of the sound projected throughout the exhibition.

Aside from actually being constructed from sonic diffusion panels, the paintings also reference musical arrangement in their positioning from each other on the wall and in the use of titles such as Deep Tone and End Measure.

Dubbed “Acoustic Paintings”, the suggestion here is that the painting and sound work play off of each other in a symbiotic environment. The projected sound reflects and is absorbed by the paintings, which are in turn receiving and gently altering the music. The visual work’s relationship to the weight of the sonic presence is perhaps most overtly illustrated in the piece entitled Long, Low, Rest (semibreve). Here five framed pieces of paper are hung along side one another to create one horizontal composition 100 inches long. The top of each piece in the work is adorned with a swath of meaty dark grey acrylic paint. Hung at knee height, the work seems to have succumbed to the sonic pressure over the course of the exhibition. It has come to rest here, having been slowly pushed down the wall away from the constantly projected sound.

Jones seems to be reminding us that we are not the only ones feeling the effect of sound waves bouncing errantly throughout our environment. Objects have a largely unseen relationship to the wear and tear of regular sonic bombardment. It would be an interesting experiment here to disassemble the sound panels from the canvas for the purpose of studying whether there is a discernable line between protected and exposed areas of painting. Whether or not this would be the case, pondering the implications of this unseen interaction is rather alluring. One can imagine a hardly perceptible world, oblivious to human interaction – an existence where objects are constantly caressed by invisible fingers of sound.