Expressiveness is not a quality we normally associate with Minimalism. Its reliance on “objective” (and occasionally mathematically derived) formulas for creating material presence has always cast the practice in a cold light. But must this always be the case? Might it be possible to take Minimalism’s most salient features – insistent geometries, impenetrable surfaces and its penchant for modular, repeating units – and inject new substance? A little feeling, perhaps? Manifold, a 10-year survey of works by post-minimalist Theodora Varnay Jones, answers with an emphatic yes.
For the most part, Varnay Jones sticks to the tropes of Minimalism’s classic period (1965-1975); but she brings to it something we usually don’t see in this realm: a prodigious level of craft. Her work is so detailed and full of her precise handiwork, that it might qualify as sui generis were it not shadowed by the influences of Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt. This isn’t always a bad thing. In four pieces from her Transparency series, she coats wall-mounted wooden boxes with a semi-translucent gel that reveals, at varying levels of opacity, layers of geometric patterning that shimmer from below in a kind of iridescent haze that is impossible to fully penetrate or bring into focus. The surfaces are reflective, refractive and interior-lit, all at the same time. Acrylic polymer and fiberglass are what enable these dislocations; yet the pieces, no matter how hard you stare, remain perceptual mazes.