REVIEW in Sculpture, March 2011 Vol. 30 No.2, a publication of the International Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C. illus. p.68-69
There is a moment at the top of a leap when we are neither ascending nor descending. It's a weightless moment full of coiled kinetic energy when something is about to happen -- something either momentous or inconsequential (supposing that any energy has no consequence) -- but in Jen Pepper's latest installation we sense the importance of the suspended message. It is this precise moment of neither here nor there that Pepper explores in that which cannot be held, now on exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art.
Upon entering the installation, the viewer is met with a seemingly concrete barrier, an argyle metal blanket that hangs directly in his or her path. While it bisects the space and seems to stop further progress, one has only to move around it to enter, solving the problem of inclusion much as Alexander “untied” the Gordian knot.
Inside now, we encounter a huge metal, cloud-like mass, suspended above a primordial bed of vegetation, flowers muted, trapped and about to break through. The galvanized metal of the mass is lit so that it assumes the appearance of graphite, making it a “pencil” drawing in thin air. It has entered the space through a tiny, invisible portal at the corner and expanded like a swelling thundercloud.
Pepper's coiled, spilling mass of wire, like speech bubbles on the verge of being filled, is suspended at the very center, communicating that which cannot be held, or seen, but that can, perhaps, be sensed.
Indeed, it is a numinous conceit the artist has selected for her work, and it's one that requires the viewer's active, inner participation; at the same time, it will prompt spirited discussion among those seeing it together.
This is not the beginning or the end, Pepper shows. In her slow motion video, a frozen waterfall thaws at such a languid pace, we can almost see its “ice-yet-not ice” state.
Pepper does not answer the questions what's next? or what came before? but instead allows, invites and enables us to consider that conundrum on many levels.
The artist does so much with language in her body of work, even when it is merely suggested, as in this exhibition. Every element becomes part of the installation: the shadows projected from the suspended mass as well as the flashes from the tiny mirrors in the wall are further intangibles, questioning state of mind, memory and even existence.
While the lines of transformation, time and thought are indistinct, Pepper's execution of the concept is clear and clean. Her use of space is concise, perhaps in an attempt to control that which cannot be held. She succeeds in taking us to that vague area of memory and imagination that haunts us all. Viewing her installation leaves us with another intangible hope, that we might somehow be able to verbalize the riddle of the in-between, even when we cannot hold or even touch it. -- Ivy F. Moore