Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Jan Groover, Formalism is Everything @Borden
Comments/Context: Jan Groover passed away earlier this year, and while this show was already on the gallery's exhibition calendar, it now has the feeling of a memorial tribute or a summing up. Taking the form of a loose retrospective, it gathers together superlative work from four decades and examines Groover's evolving sense of photographic formalism. As I walked into the gallery, I had the immediate feeling of a weight being lifted off my shoulders, as if the sea of endless artistic mediocrity that I had been trudging through had fallen away. Here, at last, were a group of photographs made by someone who knew what she was doing.
Groover's kitchen sink still lifes from the late 1970s are perhaps her best known works, and they haven't lost one iota of their ability to astound some thirty years later. Whether in silvery tactile platinum or seductive color, they explore the essence of form, where the tines of a fork, the edge of a bowl, the scallop of a cake tin, and the flatness of a knife are carefully arranged to intersect and react, creating both reflections and areas of negative space that bring harmony to the compositions. The addition of a chambered nautilus, glass bowls, and whorled, undulating green peppers gave her even more shapes and volumes to play with, leading to overlapping lines and voids of grace and sophistication. Part of me is completely flabbergasted that these bravura kitchen images are still floating around; they should all be in museums by now.
While this show isn't a comprehensive scholarly statement on Groover's long and productive career, it is undeniably a powerful sampler of control and craft. It deftly combines wow moments, unexpected treasures, and deservedly iconic images into an impressively heady mix. In the end, her work is an attention-grabbing reminder for me that words like meticulous, restrained, precise, ordered, and disciplined still have a central place in the vocabulary of photography.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show range in price from $9000 to $35000, based on age and scarcity. Groover's work is not routinely available in the secondary markets, and auction outcomes in recent years (between $1000 and $13000) may not be entirely representative of the market for her best images.
Jan Groover, Formalism is Everything
Through March 17th
Janet Borden, Inc.
New York, NY 10012