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Art review: Jennifer Bolande @ West of Rome

September 30, 2010 |  5:30 pm
Bolande 001

As part of its "Women in the City" series of public art projects, West of Rome is presenting Jennifer Bolande's site-specific installation of “Plywood Curtains” at several locations around town. The ambitious installation seeks to italicize aspects of an economic trauma, but it's a bit too reticent for so large an aim.

Bolande adapts the familiar motif of empty, boarded-up storefronts for the work, printing the graphic image of plywood on billowy fabric (the plywood swirls are reminiscent of silk moire), sewing it into curtains and hanging the drapery inside vacant store windows. The deep slump in commercial real estate is proving to be one of the most intractable drags on U.S. economic recovery -- a grim irony, given the intersection between business and property as root causes of  the Great Recession.

The curtains add a layer of domesticity to the artist's elegiac theatrical gesture -- a tacit acknowledgment of the household impact caused by commercial shenanigans beyond individual control. While metaphors of covered windows and pulling back veils are ones the artist has used many times, here it seems too fragile for the environment of an abandoned automobile showroom or empty neighborhood stores on busy thoroughfares. The work provides much to think about -- including the deathly pun the word "curtains" conjures -- but in person there's just not much to look at.

-- Christopher Knight

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West of Rome, 5450 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; 1347 E. Colorado Blvd. and 496/500 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena; (626) 793-1504; indefinitely. On view daily.

Photo: Jennifer Bolande, "Plywood Curtains," 2010, printed fabric, automobile showroom. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times