Do exhibitions end with their run times? Certainly not for Jeffrey Jay Jarin’s Fake Happy, which, from July 25 to August 11—a brief stint, considering the sudden implementation of MECQ at the time—configured Blanc Gallery’s space to have a similar impression as that of a manicured penitentiary. A safe space, to be sure, like a vault or bunker to weather a siege, but maddening: possessing ulterior, self-conscious elements that invert the space’s immediate function. As an adjective, it’s the sense of “placelessness” the show exudes that Jarin captures, and, like the exhibition title, the works press on that contrivance.
In other words, irony. Oddly, during this unprecedented time, what some consider a global crisis, we have art shows. In the extended cut of the show’s promotional film, we find the artist in the mess of his studio, staring blankly into a space in his canvas amid a voiced-over news report. Throughout, it takes external prompts for Jarin to snap out of it: a phone call, a friend repeating his name. At the gallery venue, after Jarin mounts the last of his paintings, the collective force of his artworks dawn on him, leaving him at the brink of a psychic collapse. He recovers when a friend hands him his sculptural piece, a cake, which has him staring yet again, blankly at the pasty reliefs.
It’s not that the gallery’s walls are breaking down as we speak, or that there is a fire outside setting everything ablaze. The situation never seems as terrible as it is; it would be considered terroristic to incite such rage, so might as well despair. But even that is curtailed. The sterile, calculated neatness of Jarin’s exhibition frustrates the simpler, coherent passages of grief. How else can we describe what current events have inflicted? The torn journal pages encased in glass, each atop their quaint pastel-red pedestals, as well as the series of geometric paintings of urban dwellings and plants are very nearly patronizing to behold. They scream, “fake happy.”