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Review: Jenene Nagy’s Tidal

Jenene Nagy, Tidal. installation view

Liquid Mercury
We called it “mercury sea:” the Pacific on a windless evening in a thin fog just after sunset when the glassy surface of the Monterey Bay reflected the orange-tinged grey of the sky.

A Shattered Polyhedron, A Wave, A Horizon Line

As as if a giant pink polyhedron had been cast into the corner of Disjecta, Jenene Nagy’s “Tidal” is a massive installation of hot pink irregular polygons and jagged shards cast across the floor, splashed onto two walls, and shattering on the rafters and trusses of the soaring space.

Unlike earlier installations, including “s/plit” at the Portland Art Museum, where flat monochrome fields are both painted on the walls and extend out from them on panels, “Tidal” hugs but maintains a distance from floor and wall. It tangles but does not merge with the rafters above.

Jenene Nagy, Tidal. installation view

The installation is lit only by a horizontal strip of florescent tubes a few feet off the floor that run the perimeter of the l-shaped space. It was not until my second visit to “Tidal” that I perceived the magic that the horizon line of florescents worked, making mercury sea of the panels propped on the floor and brushing exquisite gradients on the vertical panels. If my first impression was that the panels pushing and pulling with the wooden rafters in the shadows were lost without further illumination, my second was that the lighting strategy both further complicated the relationship of installation to architecture overhead and toyed with my perceptions of a single hue.

Jenene Nagy, Tidal. installation view

Real, Hyperreal, Un-
But Nagy’s always thinking about how we perceive and/or remember color, hence her use of intense, hyperreal hues. She’s dealing with space—Nagy’s recent installations are both big enough to envelop the viewer and nimble enough to create a sense of movement with static parts. She is, in fact, creating stage sets—referencing natural world with forms that evoke wave here, or flock as in “s/plit” at PAM, or with titles like “Meadow”—built of drywall and exposed 2x4s.

As set, “Tidal” signals that we are to suspend disbelief, be willing to meet this fractured hot pink wave somewhere between reality and artifice. Unlike strictly representational art (say a pastoral scene painted in oils and surrounded by a massive gold frame) Nagy’s work is resolutely honest about its fakeness.

Jenene Nagy, Tidal. installation view

If Nagy’s work employs reductive methods borrowed from minimalism (while addressing space and perception as did light and space artists), the  blue-collar 2×4 supports of her installation point away from the thing itself to that for which it is a stand-in, reinvigorating the reductive with possibility…the possibility of viewer-supplied narrative or memory…not unlike that of a mercury sea.