Jeanne Silverthorne’s art is about energy, utility, and futility. Her
rubber “paintings,” in rubber casts of old-fashioned frames, replicate microelectron photo enlargements of pores and sweat glands. Her sculpture magnifies debris sloughed off by the casting process. Her
installations are tangles of electrical paraphernalia and circuitry, all cast in black rubber.
Her current installation, The Studio Stripped Bare, Again, is a cast-rubber tour de force. High overhead, black rubber cables loop across the Cigarette Whitney’s
lobby court in a breathtaking aerial display. They glom onto walls. One wire enters the gallery and heads for some small fleshy nodes under a magnifier. Others slither across the floor, plug into fat utility boxes, or blossom into impotent fixtures. Smack in the center of the dim gray gallery dangles a lone rubber bulb—the bleak cynosure of this tangled network of passive-
The Gustonian bulb illuminates nothing: neither the small lumps nor the torso-size abominations nor their not quite Arp-like cratered bases cast from other
studio scraps nor the repulsive
glandular replicas on the walls. Comical as well as profoundly
pessimistic, the sinister central bulb metaphorically siphons a
century’s worth of light and energy into an imploded metaphor of
In this sly fin-de-siècle critique, painting is an unhealthy attention to bodily surface, sculpture the
laborious replication of excreta, and installation a matter of
dysfunctional utility, as pragmatic as Con Ed. The Studio strips
abstraction and representation of their accumulated illusions while sucking delusions of enlightenment into a black hole. Deconstruction? Silverthorne’s vision is more like
annihilation. Switching off the bulb—cartoon signifier of artistic inspiration—in the proverbial artist’s studio (a former sweatshop?), she extinguishes the whole modern project. Dare we call this gorgeous blackout millennial?