Jenny Okun at the Craig Krull Gallery
By Collette Chattopadhyay
June / July 1998
Jenny Okuns works exude a youthful, exuberant mood. Rather than extending traditional photographys search for the perfect moment or shot, this European-American photographer accentuates the processes of searching for the images as more significant than any single triumphal picture. Racketing her film while it is still in the camera, Okun creates multiple exposures on film that she later digitally manipulates. Presenting collage-like compositions, her works play light passages against dark, while spinning grid axes into circling matrixes that transform the solidity of stone, steel, and glass into cubist visions of translucency and space.
This recent exhibition presented 15 new photographic Iris prints. Included were images shot on commission for the new Getty Center in Los Angeles, as well as photo-collages of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Cite de la Musique in Paris, the Gough Clock in London, the Predock Library in Las Vegas, and the ancient Native-American ruin known as Mesa Verde in Arizona. Predominately boldly colored and fast-paced, these works evoke the clipped pace of city environments.
The earliest work in the show, however, entitled Mesa Verde Triptych (1995), established a much slower and more subtle visual cadence. At first glimpse it appeared to be a sun-faded sepia print, structured with deliberately balanced horizontal and vertical axes. But with time, the works delicate analogous color scheme emerged, playing muted beiges and pinks against bleached yellow and soft ochre hues. One of the most poetic works exhibited, the Mesa Verde Triptych was obviously a touchstone from which the subsequent works evolved.
One of the most striking later works is the Getty Entrance Triptych (1997) part of a suite of six exhibited prints of the Getty Center complex. Setting sweeping curvilinear lines against a structured vertical and horizontal matrix, this photograph is bolder in color tone and more structurally complex than the Mesa Verde print. Multiplying and refracting the skylight ceiling of the Museums entrance pavilion, the photograph feted the buildings grandness through the visual emphasis of repetition and manipulation.
While some have suggested that the faceted nature of Okuns works converse with Cubism, the tone and mood of these worked are considerably more blithe. Certainly, replication and multiplication in these works carry a laudatory, rather than analytic, overtone. Indeed, except for their lightness, the works might be regarded as a witty secularization of ancient Buddhist imagery where refraction and multiplication often function as symbols of power and magnificence. But, perhaps all such ruminations are simply too heavy for these impish works which like a Disneyland roller-coaster ride engender a giddy and exhilarated consciousness. Infusing Western Modernist photography and painting idioms with mass media savvy and new technology investigations, Okuns works are in the final analysis playful, perceptive, and progressive.