In October 2013, JAY GARD inspired the visitors of his first exhibition in Berlin with the monumental “Torbogen” installation. Back then, we entered the world of JAY GARD’s art through an arch constructed of self-made cabinets, five meters high and spanning twelve meters.
Two years later, we are happy to present the second exhibition of JAY GARD, titled WRONG HISTORY, at SEXAUER. Entering the gallery now, we are surprised at first, as our view is blocked by two massive white walls right behind the entrance door. Confused and feeling almost like traversing a labyrinth, we need to cross a small, white anteroom to then step into the exhibition hall through a gap between the gallery wall and the installed one. Walls serve as an irritation and retarding moment at the same time.
Entering the exhibition room after being “repelled” like this, it takes only seconds before our eyes are virtually sucked into a gigantic mural. It is a monumental picture of stripes, sized 4 x 15 meters, painted on the opposite wall in acrylics. The stripes meet at an angle, making the picture appear three-dimensional. It acts as a huge and very modern stage backdrop for the landscape called WRONG HISTORY that JAY GARD has built in the space between the entering visitor and the wall painting. From behind, it equally pulls us into itself and rejects us. In other words: it just bowls us over.
The room in front of it is a stage landscape, made up of a pavilion, monolith-like floor objects, a wall installation like an advertising panel, stage elements and wall objects with stripe images, all made of plywood. It is a strange, foreign and yet somehow familiar world of artifacts that makes us understand right away that JAY GARD is enthusiastic about things: About things, tools and objects that people have been producing for two million years (and not just since the Stone Age!). For ten thousand years at least, people have – beyond strictly meeting their needs – also experienced joy in the production of things, in buildings and in designing objects decoratively to exceed their purely functional values. In his exhibition, JAY GARD recreates this constructed world as a stage, as WRONG HISTORY.
What is wrong in this history? In WRONG HISTORY, JAY GARD examines human perception in the Internet age, and the related phenomenon of surface. He intuitively works on a phenomenology cast in plywood, in the style of a total installation, using a double stage: the stage of the gallery as such and the stage bases constructed in it, which are more than just reminiscences to the sculpture bases of the past. Let us get back to this later, though. Aged only 30, the artist has been building sculptures, objects, things, unrelentingly for the last decade, observing how his language of forms changes inspired by images and computer design.
The exhibition shows how reliably our collective image memory works by now. We see the upright, stone-like shapes of birch wood and think of megalithic graves or Stonehenge. A look at the surfaces of the hollow plywood sculptures is all we need. We see the pavilion and think of the enjoyments in a baroque garden. We see the wall installation “Wrong Pictogram” and think of the billboards typical for Los Angeles. The city in which history has been shown and made on stages for a hundred years: Hollywood, WRONG HISTORY. It is interesting that – in Hollywood as well as in the exhibition – these stages are enough to evoke images inside us: Images of reality. But they are only images. There is no true history.
JAY GARD is not the first artist who manically turns towards the material world. The first name that comes to mind is that of Richard Artschwager. What makes JAY GARD’s art new? What makes it any different from the art of twenty or thirty years ago? Two things become evident: First, JAY GARD assumes that the observer is familiar with the imagery of the internet in WRONG HISTORY, where everything is placed together at the same time. Second, JAY GARD builds things as only someone who has grown up in the computer age would. The sculptures and installations are put together of individual surfaces that we are familiar with, e.g., from digital maps. The object shapes usually have just a few coordinates and remind us of the vector principle of computer graphics and programs of digital picture processing.
Furthermore, JAY GARD’s WRONG HISTORY relies on the collective image memory of the internet generation, for whom opposites such as surface and content, appearance and reality, real and virtual worlds, as well as past and future are no longer as eminently important as they used to be. The great words of truthfulness and authenticity have left the stage. It does not matter whether a film stage is constructed or animated. It does not matter either whether a virtual world is set in the past or future; it always happens in the here and now. In a world of images and data, materials are not of interest anymore either. We no longer bite a gold coin to check if it is real. The stock rate is more relevant. Real time instead of reality: JAY GARD does not even try to physically recreate new things in WRONG HISTORY. In the virtual world and the reality of postmodernism, the individual object has ceased to be essential. It has been replaced by context, its environment and its motion. Therefore, stages are used instead of bases. Focus is not on the individual static sculpture, but on its “history” and references in the concurrent appearance of all things. Therefore, JAY GARD plays with the increasingly global and abstract references and connections of the individual artifacts. This play with references and imagined images in WRONG HISTORY turns in a wonderful circle: JAY GARD does not program, he actually builds this world. He builds it with an incredible dedication and energy; there are no pictures, but things, objects, all of them handmade, with a saw, angle grinder and cordless screwdriver. His WRONG HISTORY is made of plywood, roof lathes and screws. This history of things evokes images and is impossible to image without them. No one makes us feel this as sensually as JAY GARD does – the wrong history, to which the term no longer applies, replaced by the concurrent existence of all images, and thus also the end of history: built of birch wood. We can smell it. What a wonderful dialectic and ambivalence. History disappears but this primal joy in building and construction of things remains.
Let me say another thing about the stripes. Stripes appeared in art in the second half of the last century, introduced by Jasper John’s flags and by Frank Stella, followed by Sol Lewitt and Anselm Reyle. Stripes are the characteristic feature of Paul Smith’s fashion. In JAY GARD’s WRONG HISTORY, the stripes evoke something else. They do not refer to a nation, but neither are they simply abstract stripes or color blocks. Instead, they seem to represent the layers of wrong hi/story placed next to each other and visible at the same time in this exhibition, all of them the same and interchangeable, and as colorful as our imagery. We could almost – a little paradoxically – speak of overlaid surfaces, as in a tomography. The stripes remind us of a multi-layeredness that is losing its relevance. In this respect, the wrong history of images and surfaces – JAY GARD’s WRONG HISTORY – is also a little multi-layered.
JAY GARD: WRONG HISTORY at SEXAUER GALLERY, Berlin
September 15 to October 10, 2015
Source: press text by Jan-Philipp Sexauer (partially based on thoughts from a catalogue text by Joachim Blank)