Richardson Memorial Hall
Tulane School of Architecture
October 7–November 8, 2013
We make memories every day. Regardless of whether a moment is mundane or significant, it may get filed away for later use. But our filing system is unreliable, our cabinet a little too jumbled. How often do we recall an event, only to be told that’s not how it happened? Bits of memories converge and get stitched together with other vignettes or objects from our lives and even our dreams. Jack Niven’s “Memory Logos” exhibition seems to emerge from this nebulous, disjointed space where recollections gather.
In His Eyes of Sparkling Lustre Have a Magic in Their Beam, a frog is hitching a ride on a fox’s back, his hands clasped together, eyes looking towards the sky as if in prayer or deep thought. In another, a monkey adjusts the feathers on an eagle’s breast with the care of a doting spouse. Niven’s graphite drawings surely recall the naturalistic detail of nineteenth-century science texts, but the animals are personified in subtle, endearing ways more reminiscent of children’s storybooks from the 1950s. Whether these sources are significant to the artist remains unclear, but the convergence of memories is apparent, especially in a work like I Dreamt I Lay Asleep Beneath an Orange Tree When a Bluebird Came and Sang. A moose traverses through water with a squawking bird on his back, the landscape set against a paisley sky that could be borrowed from another mental impression: the fabric of a teacher’s dress or the wallpaper in a kitchen. Everything is faintly recognizable in these peculiar reflections.