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January 7, 2012

Janet Malcolm: Free Associations, New collages series, at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, NYC

Janet Malcolm: Free Associations 
Lori Bookstein Fine Art, NYC
Through January 14, 2012

New collages by the artist JANET MALCOM are on view at Lori Bookstein Fine Art gallery in New York City. This series of collages titled Free Associations began to form in Janet Malcolm's mind when the papers of an émigré psychiatrist who practiced in New York in the late 1940's and 1950's —many of whose patients were themselves émigrés— came into her possession. The extracts from case studies appear in combination with fragments from early 20th century medical, surgical, astronomical and technological texts, as well as appropriations from contemporary art, giving these works the atmosphere of dreams in which vaguely and somewhat disturbingly familiar times and places are evoked. 

In Free Associations, Janet Malcolm continues her exploration of the aesthetic tradition of german painter Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) and the Russian Contructivists, but brings hints of narrative previously present to a new level of explicitness. The collages' source materials of yellowed handwritten and typewritten notes play the dual role of verbal signifier and visual element. The melancholy of once cutting-edge, now antiquated textbooks dovetails with that of the Freudian case studies—which, in Janet Malcolm's words, summon "a period in psychiatry that is as remote from today's practice as the manual typewriter is from the Macintosh computer." 

In a brochure which accompanies the exhibition, an essay by Hilton Als addresses the blurred line between the real and the imagined. He writes: 

Malcolm’s desire to order the world is not so much the desire to re-create or control it as it’s an exploration of its various elements—those moments of being that are no more, and that were as true and fake as anything else. Grief and fiction are the central themes of her collages; the grief is real, the images are made up out of the real stuff of grief, which is to say artifacts from the past, a desire to not let go, and are the visual representations of the will to remember even as time erodes that will, and we are no more. But that’s not entirely true. The others that come after us remember us as Malcolm remembers her dead, or the not-known-at-all, their various fictions and facts intact as they swim in the muddying waters of what we erroneously describe as the real world. Hilton ALS

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