Overlooked, but not underappreciated: a look into Jennifer Bolande

Artists, In Brief

by Davina Bhandari

Jennifer Bolande has a proclivity for highlighting the quiet significance in the relatively unseen; this might be why, as we have forced slowdown and reflection to varying degrees, her relevance in today’s art market is due for a reevaluation.

Since the early 1980s, Bolande has been gathering and examining already-discovered pieces of information. She’s about a half-decade younger than the Pictures Generation, who influenced her work, just as Pop and Conceptualism has, but Bolande will say herself, “I am NOT a Pictures Generation artist, I’m related.”

Jennifer Bolande image from Hand Held
Jennifer Bolande image from Hand Held 2
Jennifer Bolande image from Hand Held 3

Through her early photography, and later assemblage and installation work, she has been piecing these found objects together in ways that, upon first glance, might bear an all-too-striking similarity to their original state or have the capacity to blend into viewer surroundings. For some of her works, the capacity for situational oversight is intentional. Viewers are required to recalibrate their perception to the space they share with the work in question. One of Bolande’s talents is in revealing the complex connections that exist between commonplace ideas, objects, or concepts.

Jennifer Bolande image from Porn series 1
Jennifer Bolande image from Porn series 2
Jennifer Bolande image from Porn series 3

“I kept telling everyone,” says her gallerist Olivia Smith of Magenta Plains, “this is a bigger artist under our noses. At this point, people need to see how her work has influenced the canon and how much she’s a part of it. That’s what we’re setting off to do.” So this week at the Independent Art Fair, the gallery is mounting a solo booth of Bolande’s early works, particularly the “Porn” series from the early 1980s that show no bodies at all. Instead, the series is a conceptual reflection of how porn makes her feel and the creeping details in the background that inform those thoughts. Bolande’s use and reuse of familiar sights, stories, and references invite us to find meaning at our own pace.

Jennifer Bolande image from Smoke Screen series 1
Jennifer Bolande image from Smoke Screen series 2
Jennifer Bolande image from Smoke Screen series 3

It would be fair to argue that our collective attention span is shortening; at the same time, and at a similar rate, the amount of information we are fed is growing. One reason why Smith adds that “Commercially, Jennifer is not as well known, so it takes as a young or energetic collector to bring this back to the forefront and remind people this is not sleepy artwork.” In fact, Bolande is also in a sphere of artists who are institutionally loved, and in the private collections of major collectors (some even Baer Faxt subscribers!) and yet, in a commercial capacity are still relatively overlooked. “If you look at the fine print, there’s a lot of institutional support and has been for Jennifer, but she hasn’t exhibited in NY in a while,” explains Smith, “we’ve been going back and seeing what inventory from past decades is available. She seems to have held back a lot for whatever reason, so there’s a wealth of important and seminal pieces. That was the impetus for showing at Independent.”

In Bolande’s work, she encourages us to slow down and to reexamine what we already know or think we know. And now, to collect, as well.