Arrayed around the all-white room, like sprouted mushrooms, are black, multileveled handmade crates, from which spring internal ramps, each capped with a black ceramic vessel. As one moves through the space, their gridded surfaces seem to flutter in motion; certain features disappear at certain angles, their fullness stripped in silhouette, and others simultaneously bloom to life. The stripped-down vocabulary of Elizabeth Jaeger’s objects at Jack Hanley Gallery— cages with slashes and backslashes of ramps, some of which make x’s—alongside the white walls and black doors of the gallery itself, suggests microcosmic worlds encased within larger ones.
“Holes” is a fitting title for Jaeger’s fifth solo show at the gallery. Above the caged structures rest round vessels, each with a large porthole through which a viewer can peer into a miniature scene. Some of the sights to behold: a figure grips a doll in its hand; another cruises in a convertible, hair and body blown back by the force of unseen wind; an entire studio apartment, complete with bed, kitchenette and plant; a large, lazy cat. Bursts of playfulness and creativity can be seen in the form of some of these vessels, such as when a crack at the bottom of one piece is transformed into the edge of a wave. In another, a chasm appears in the earth alongside a shepherd and sheep.
Regularity and monotony are also a dominant theme in these works, not least in the gridded structures that dot the room. In one vessel, a figure sits fully awake, its arms wrapped around its legs, in a dormitory or shelter filled with sleeping figures as if freshly wrung from a nightmare. In another, figures are arrayed in identical desks and chairs. Indeed, whether these structures enclose a sense of safety, solitude or loneliness varies—see, for instance, the sad scene held within a skinny structure that few would deign to trek. Along with the mottled quality of these fired scenes—as if they are half-dreamt, not fully made—they suggest a metaphor for the human body or mind: the warrens we make for ourselves in our own unknowable interiorities. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Elizabeth Jaeger, Zoom Zoom, 2021. Ceramic and powder-coated wire pedestal Ceramic 18 x 18 x 5 inches; Pedestal 20 x 20 x 36 inches. Courtesy the artist and Jack Hanley Gallery. Photo credit: Brad Farwell