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Jennifer Pastor creates large-scale sculptures that delve into complicated societal constructs. Endless Arena (2009-2012), made from electroless nickel-plated steel and painted fiberglass, is informed by investigations of unregulated “no-holds-barred” fighting events along with conversations with veteran combat artists. This high-octane environment is visually presented as a synchronized loop, repeating the cycle ad infinitum.
Whitewall spoke to Pastor about her solo Los Angeles show at Regen Projects last month, and her curiosity with this underground world.
WHITEWALL: You have spent two years investigating unregulated “no-holds-barred” fighting events. How did this start?
JENNIFER PASTOR: Lack of reliable information, followed by dubious imagery and then no imagery at all, after the Bush invasion of Baghdad in 2003, media just kind of went blank. For a long period afterward, like many others, I felt a frustration and disturbance of being unable to see.
In the project “Dead Landscape – in this malaise of feeling somewhat blind…” over a two year period, I began drawing at “no-holds-barred” fighting events. I was particularly interested in small venues unregulated by the Sports Authority, urban rec-clubs, parolees letting off steam at gyms, Indian reservations, casinos and then a couple larger commercial venues in Vegas. I was drawing mostly at night: blind-gesture drawing.
During the same time, I was traveling to Washington, DC, and Quantico, Virginia, speaking with veteran combat artists from various campaigns and divisions of the military (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq). Viewing and photographing drawings in their possession, in personal sketchbooks, and in the odd situation of direct, on-the-spot sketches of action and stillness, found in the isolated “mortuaries” of flat files in several branches of National Military Archives and storage facilities. Specifically I was looking for eye-witness drawings of action, which turned out to be rare.
WW: Can you elaborate on your conversations with veteran combat artists?
JP: I spoke to a number of veteran combat artists From WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. Two very generous exchanges were with Edward Reep, who was 96 at the time we first met, and Jack Dyer, who made oddly delicate plein air watercolors while he was enlisted in Vietnam.
The project “Dead Landscape” orbits around a gift, a drawing by Edward Reep (WWII “German Pillbox” Anzio Harbor, 1944), which he gave me after some very personal and insightful conversations. The drawing is stamped in red on back: “Rejected by War Department” and was the only one remaining in his possession from the war. It looked very different from his other work. It is an extraordinary drawing.
Jack Dyer, led me to specific works in one of the warehouse archives that he thought were drawn on-the-spot, rather than illustrations and propaganda, which is most of the material.
I photographed the gesture of his hands offering these drawings, which struck me as a beautiful form of pure communication, although the subject seems to be dead the interruption of witness and the generosity of the gesture is animate and alive.
WW: How does Endless Arena weave together these stories together?
JP: The sculpture Endless Arena is a sort of extruded drawing itself, an agitated hybrid constructed from some of the most peculiar situations and perceptions and the more impossible drawings from those events.
Sculpted blind, inside out. Dug and carved cavities directionally, not knowing what the facing side of the sculpture would look like… synchronized movements and shifting dominance.
Drawn line in space and pushing cavities into membrane thin materials, led to the material choices. A desire to push deeply into flat screen space and flatten the deep space of action.
Jennifer Pastor has exhibited in major museums domestically and internationally including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humelback, Denmark; Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, Germany; and FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France. Pastor participated in the 1996 Sao Paulo Biennial, the 1997 Whitney Biennial and the 2003 Venice Biennale, and is the recipient of the 1995 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. Her tripartite sculpture The Perfect Ride (2003) will be shown at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam this spring.