OCTOBER 12 – DECEMBER 1, 2021
OPENING: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 12–5PM
I think a lot about emptiness. While making the fish vessels I had this recurring memory of fishing with my grandfather in California, and having to gut the fish. We were sitting on the edge of a rock sunbathing as he handed me dead fish he had cut open. I remember it struck me how easily their entrails fell from the open cavity, as if the fish were made to be containers. And the violence of this: how empty they felt, while ready to cook and eat.
– Elizabeth Jaeger, April 2019
Mister Fahrenheit is very pleased to announce Gutted, a solo project by New York-based artist Elizabeth Jaeger. Using the gallery as her stage, Jaeger explores narratives of time, space, and consciousness through an installation of new sculpture from her Fish series, presented for the first time in the United States.
For more than a decade, Elizabeth Jaeger has mined notions of corporeality, perception, and reality through an economy of material and form. Initially trained on representations of the female body, Jaeger’s focus has shifted in recent years to a broader range of subjects – anamorphic vases, empty pieces of furniture, life-size greyhound dogs, dead birds, and suspended glass fish – each familiar yet, much like her truncated torsos and elongated nudes, subtly elusive and unsettling. Frequently displayed within or atop larger sculptural “frames” or supports, Jaeger’s forms function as vessels; they are objects in their own right, but also placeholders for the ideas of those objects as activated by the viewer’s own perceptions and physical presence.
Taking this notion of vessel as her point of departure, Jaeger formalizes her own language of opposites in Gutted through a grouping of new hand-blown glass and steel Fish sculptures. Inspired by Roman fish vases from the 2nd century BC, this series, which Jaeger began in 2017, is based on ancient lachrymatories, small spindle-shaped vessels that were said to hold tears of mourners. Once filled, these “tear-catchers” would be capped with a cork and symbolically represent a mourner’s readiness to move forward with their life once the liquid had evaporated. In studying two specific fish vases housed respectively at the British Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jaeger found that, despite their differences in scales, shapes, and origins of discovery, the vessels appeared to have been blown from the same mold. Referencing this shared mold as her prototype, the artist developed ceramic negatives from which she began an intensive molding and glassblowing process, remnants of which she reveals at Mister Fahrenheit through archeological-like displays of broken fish molds. Positioned along gallery shelving and hidden within fixtures, these ceramic fragments become the backdrop to themes of emptiness, stillness, and metamorphosis that Gutted explores.
Quietly stationed along the floor and walls of the gallery, three hand-blackened steel structures present a series of glistening glass fish, each suspended in mid-air by its tail with a thick sculpted hook, or delicately fastened, skewer-like, along a spiny rod. Elegant, ethereal, and seemingly alive in their gradations of opalescent and white glass, which subtly shift in response to the space’s natural light and mimic the coloration of aging fish, Jaeger’s creatures are disturbing in their fragility and rigid constraint. Loosely modeled after traditional fish drying racks, the sculptures’ metal supports also relate to the human body in their size and positioning; as viewers navigate the gallery space, they are confronted with startling, and at times frightening, eye-level views into the fish’s hollowed-out cavities and open mouths, each of which reveals a sharp set of copper teeth. In this way, Jaeger’s Fish sculptures become functionless vessels, broken open like the fish who opens its mouth in death. At the same time, they operate as receptacles for transformation, reconfiguring a once fast, slippery, and free-moving life form into static, hollow, and brittle remains. Frozen in time, Gutted invites viewers into Jaeger’s suspended reality, which hovers somewhere between death and life, stillness and movement, fragility and strength.
Born in San Francisco, CA in 1988, Elizabeth Jaeger currently lives and works in New York, NY. The artist’s recent solo exhibitions include “before making profound statements use a pencil with a good eraser” and Pommel at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York (2020, 2017) and Brine at Klemm's, Berlin, Germany (2017). Jaeger’s work has also been exhibited in a number of notable group shows worldwide such as Mirror Cells at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Greater New York at MoMA PS1, New York (2015); In Practice: Fantasy Can Invent Nothing New at SculptureCenter, New York (2016); Zombies: Pay Attention! at Aspen Art Museum, CO (2018); and, most recently, Clay Pop at Deitch, New York (2021). Following Jaeger’s project at Mister Fahrenheit, the artist will present solo exhibitions at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York (opening October 21, 2021), Night Gallery, Los Angeles (opening November 2021), and Klemm’s, Berlin (opening 2022).
Together with Sam Cate-Gumpert, Elizabeth Jaeger is the co-founder of Peradam, a publishing house specializing in artists’ books.
Established in the West Village of New York in 2019, Mister Fahrenheit is an independent project space for contemporary artists and curators. The program is devoted to realizing cross-disciplinary projects and collaborations outside of traditional gallery and institutional contexts. For more information, please visit www.misterfahrenheitny.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.