Minimalism is easy to enjoy. Such works, as privations of fussiness and excess, usually educe somewhat sublime responses. Somehow when an artist pairs simplicity of form with a sense of craft and staging, something smart steps forward. And Jay Shinn’s show, “Highlight,” at Marty Walker Gallery, carries on this tradition nicely.
It ought to be noted that Shinn’s work, while comfortably and fittingly falling under the minimal rubric, is equally influenced by the related movements and styles of light and space, geometric abstraction, and op-art. His two installations, “Reflexive #1” and “Folded Column,” seem the fullest and most successful instantiations of these interests and methodologies. “Reflexive #1” is the first work you see when you enter the space. The walls have been painted to make them seem as though they have been subtly impressed or depressed, save the vibrant pink portion that is not so subtle. Add a large mirror and light projection and the installation begins to manifest the various sensible and logical complexities striven for by such optically interested work: a play of illusion and sense-impression by way of organizing simple shapes with careful techniques.
“Folded Column,” though employing the same elements sans mirror, is equally successful, if somewhat less remarkable. Still, the paint on the wall and the projected light work together in such a way as to beg you to step closer — even though you already know — and find out whether or not the wall has been manipulated beyond pigment and illumination. And of course it’s all skill and false appearance. The pure delight of geometric opticality aside, it is this layered illusion of a wall sculpture discreetly glowing upon the wall that wins you over.
The smaller series, “Tablet Drawing[s] 14 – 28,” also achieves Shinn’s geometric and visonal interests. Yet, after spending time with the larger installations, they seem more like studies. Their bright shapes and lines of markers and colored pencils upon multiple layers of translucent vellum seem conceptually solid, but you may find it hard to give yourself completely over to these pieces post the larger works’ appropriation of you. Although the other, slightly larger, set of works on translucent vellum, “Zirconic #1 – #8,” seem less preparatory in their execution and noticeably more complete.
Taken altogether, these works demonstrate a fine union of optical fascination and gentle radiation. While Shinn is not formally carrying on the minimalist tradition, nor squarely bearing a torch for any one mid-twentieth century philosophy, he is nevertheless thoughtfully contributing to several interrelated heritages.
—Andy Amato, PhD
Andy Amato is a Dallas-based artist, writer and teacher
(This originally appeared in Arts+Culture Magazine)