Jason de Haan reviewed in Art in America
Writing for a new publication can be an exercise in humility, in the best ways. A reminder of your crutches and tendencies as a writer (including, for me, always including two nouns when one will do. This sentence is a case in point), but also a chance to hone your descriptive capacities. At least that was the case with writing a review of Jason de Haan’s “Free and Easy Wanderer” solo show at Clint Roenisch for this month’s issue of Art in America: a task that was both deeply satisfying, having long been an admirer of de Haan’s work, but also tricky in terms of trying to unpack the ways the artist plays with time in his practice. This is as close as I got (I hope) to articulating with words what I feel when I look at de Haan’s sculptures:
By using the fossils as filters through which the machines emit gas into the air, de Haan taps into the human desire to access the metaphysical powers of primordial matter. At the core of the installation is a question about where these natural and man-made objects belong in time; the work complicates the fossils’ status as artifacts of remote eras, while also making the modern appliances seem strangely old, like tools of archaic rituals.
I told a friend recently about an experimental short writing workshop I took with Ivan Coyote many years ago and how one of the most challenging things Ivan did was give each participant a different rule they had to follow for each week’s assignment. For me one week, it was that I could not write in the first person. For another classmate who was hysterically funny, it was the limitation that she could not tell any jokes. By spotting and then removing our shorthanded ways of getting from one point in the story to another, they forced us to try new things. Short of my self-imposed rule of not starting a sentence with the word “in” (borrowed from Charles Reeve), I have not been terribly disciplined in pinpointing and eliminating my writing crutches. Perhaps, with the inspiration of trying to write about de Haan’s work in mind, it can be one of my resolutions for the year ahead.