Spencer Brownstone Gallery is delighted to announce Halfway Off, Jane South’s seventh solo exhibition with the gallery. South’s 2020 exhibition Switch Back marked a stark and novel departure from her signature paper constructions. This new body of work expands upon the artist’s distinct vocabulary of shapes, colors, lines, and textures that have emerged from her continued exploration of New York City’s urban vernacular.
South’s new work opts for a spontaneous arrangement of discarded and handcrafted fabrics that unsettle their geometry's smooth edges. In the structured work of Switch Back, each fabric element was contained, rarely encroaching on its neighbor, while trapunto fabrics and foam grids met neatly at the edges with wisps of horizontally aligned threads slumped like unraveled macramé. In Halfway Off, curves supplant right angles, color is liberated from the grid, and line meanders across stitched borders while trims of painted canvas jut out like spikes on a railing.
In these new works, the ability to name even basic shapes such as the circle or square is rescinded, evoking what Russian critic Viktor Shkovsky terms ostranenie, translated as “making strange” or defamiliarization. In Halfway Off, ubiquitous street forms like scaffolding, railings, grills and shutters, and windows and doors become strange, prompting a more considered observation that “forces us to look again, to see, almost for the first time.”
Within each work’s perimeter, idiosyncratic cuts of canvas, bedsheets, curtains, foam, and fragments of previous works are overlaid and stitched together by threaded lines that perform acts of drawing. Moments of recognition are scattered throughout, such as South’s use of chain-link as a motif. A pictorial crossover from previous work, this motif tethers the work to the street while a material shift to canvas and fabric perversely alludes to a more interior sphere.
Collectively, the works in Halfway Off, inhabit the gallery in a way that echoes the experience of each piece. They fragment and unify, extract and re-place, contrarily situating the viewer at once at home and on the street, within and without.
Born in Manchester, UK, Jane South worked in experimental theater before moving to the United States in 1989. She has a BFA in Theater from Central St. Martins, London, UK, and an MFA in Painting & Sculpture from UNC Greensboro. Solo exhibitions include Shifting Structures: Switch Back (2020), Spencer Brownstone Gallery, NY; Survey (2019), Mills Gallery, Central College, Pella, IA; Raked (2014), Spencer Brownstone Gallery, NY; Floor/Ceiling (2013), Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT; Box (2011), Knoxville Museum of Art, TN and Shifting Structures: Stacks (2010), the New York Public Library, NY. Southʼs work has been reviewed in The New York Times, the LA Times, Artforum, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, New York Magazine, Frieze, ArtNews, NY Arts Magazine, and The New Yorker. She is a contributor to the book “The Artist as Cultural Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life” (editor: Sharon Louden). Grants and residencies include the Guggenheim Fellowship (2021); Brown/RISD Mellon Foundation Fellowship (2015); Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (2009); Dora Maar House, Menérbes, France (2010); Camargo Foundation, Cassis, France (2010); Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2001 & 2008); New York Foundation for the Arts (2007); Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy (2008); MacDowell Colony, NH (2002 & 2004); Yaddo, NY (2001 & 2002). In 2018 South was elected to the National Academy of Design. Jane South is currently Chair of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute.