Artist of the Week (12/12/05)
Still, the very first time I saw a video by Jen DeNike, I knew she was one to watch. She was in a group exhibition at White Box entitled domesticArrivals: Miami - New York Connection and even though my peeps were on a tight gallery-hopping schedule, I kept coming back to her video, eventually having to catch up later to watch it. Yes, there's the inescapable homoerotic element of any work which depicts young men without shirts, but in "Dumb-bells" (see still above), there was this almost unbearable combination of vulnerability and assertion that this one particular act (at least for teenagers dealing with the host of insecurities, especially about body issues) respresented for me. I have very strong memories of being in my parents basement trying so desperately to pack some muscle on my tiny frame when I was about that age. I knew it was vainglorious. I knew it most certainly made me look ridiculous, but the societal pressure to be more of a jock was suffocating. "Dumb-bells" captured all of that determination and silliness.
At this point, clearly, I wasn't the only one who had noticed the strenght of her work. DeNike went on to be included in a string of international group exhibitions, culminating in her inclusion in PS1's Greater New York show, where she was singled out by New York Magazine as one of ten "Artists on the Verge of a Breakthrough." Currently she has her first solo New York show at Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery in Chelsea, where she's exhibiting an ambitious seven-channel video installation. Here are a few stills:
Jen DeNike, Wrestling (video still), 2003, Single Channel Video Loop, 3:09, Edition of 3 with 2 AP (image from Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery website)
Jen DeNike, Dead Man's Float (video still), 2005, Single Channel Video Loop, 2:10, Edition of 5 with 1 AP (image from Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery website)
Titled "Seasons in the Sun," the installation is described as follows in the gallery press release:
Vulnerability seems to be a thread running through most of DeNike's work. Earlier on she garnered attention for her photography series of "vampire victims." Ambrosino Gallery in Miami exhibited these in 2004. Here's an example from their website:
DeNike uses the 1970’s song “Seasons in the Sun” as a vernacular to tap into the viewer’s subconscious. The song works as a vehicle to trigger the cognitive memory, thus subjecting the viewer to a type of ‘laboratory experiment’. Each video follows a set of rules and employs the same formal composition, the only variable being each individual performance, making one video slightly longer or shorter than the next. The videos work together to expose the raw quality of the performance and a sense of the subject’s vulnerability, creating a sense of chaos and claustrophobia.
Personally, I'm still just getting to know DeNike's work so I'll keep this short and sweet, but what I've seen so far has been very compelling. Certainly one to watch.