Monday, July 2, 2012

Jay Bolotin’s The Jackleg Testament

Jay Bolotin. American, 1949–. Jack and Eve on Stage,still from The Jackleg Testament Part IJack & Eve.2004-2005. Woodcut motion picture. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Carol Ramsay Chandler Fund and with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

I vividly remember the first time I laid eyes on Jay Bolotin’s The Jackleg Testament Part I: The Story of Jack and Eveat the 2008 Editions and Artist’s Book Fair in New York. At a special early opening event for collectors and curators, I, like everyone else, was making a beeline for the coffee and muffins which were stationed at the end of a long row of booths. While walking, I noticed many people in front of me stop halfway down the aisle, turn to the right, and stand, transfixed and open-mouthed. I soon joined them in the same posture. What we were all looking at was fairly astonishing; the booth of the Carl Solway Gallerywhich was densely hung with vigorous black-and-white woodcuts. At the center of the installation hung a video monitor, where the figures in the woodcuts, now in color, cavorted, singing an operatic score. What on earth WAS this thing? The first woodcut movie, I was told. Jay Bolotin, the majordomo behind the production, not only designed and cut the woodcuts and assembled the movie; he also wrote the music and libretto for the 62-minute opera, and was one of the featured singers. While I was initially astonished by this idea, I quickly learned that for Jay Bolotin, such immersive, complex, and sprawling projects are more the rule rather than the exception. As an artist Bolotin wears many hats; he is a singer, songwriter, writer, printmaker, sculptor, theater collaborator, installation artist, etc. All these roles are necessary to achieve his true vocation: that of a compelling and consummate storyteller.

This amazing marriage of the earliest means of printed communication (woodcut) with the latest (digital media) seemed a natural for an educational institution, and we quickly snapped up a copy of the portfolio (which includes 40 woodcuts and a copy of the opera on disc) for the SCMA collection.

Jay Bolotin. American, 1949–. Jack’s Entrance into Edenfrom The Jackleg Testament Part IJack & Eve.2005-2007. Woodcut. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Carol Ramsay Chandler Fund and with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

We are pleased to finally be able to share this work with SCMA visitors, as Jay Bolotin: The Jackleg Testamentopens on June 29 (and runs through September 9). Featured in the exhibition are the woodcuts from the portfolio, a viewing theater where the opera will be running continuously during open hours, and a special sneak preview of Bolotin’s progress on Part II of The Jackleg Testament(which he sees as a trilogy of linked films). Part II includes drawings (annotated with text written on the wall by the artist), new prints (woodcut and relief etching) and a video showing tests for the animations that will make up the next film.

Bolotin will return to Northampton on Friday July 13 to give an illustrated lecture on his work as part of SCMA’s Free Second Fridays Program. The Museum will be open from 4-8, and the lecture will take place in Stoddard Hall at 7 pm. This is a program not to be missed!

Jay Bolotin. American, 1949–. Nobodaddyfrom The Jackleg Testament Part I: Jack & Eve.2005-2007. Woodcut. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Carol Ramsay Chandler Fund and with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.

Jay Bolotin. American, 1949–. Puppet Show with Ostrich Vision 2010. Graphite on illustration board. Collection of Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c Museum, Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph by Tony Walsh.

Jay Bolotin. American, 1949–. The Puppeteer in his labyrinth,test sequence from the film The Jackleg Testament Part II: The Book of Only Enoch.2012. Lent by the artist, courtesy of Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Jay Bolotin and Aprile Gallant speaking to SCMA members in the installation of Jay Bolotin: The Jackleg Testament.June 28, 2012. Photograph by Louise Kohrman.

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