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Jill Foley, 'The Mountain'
at Conduit Gallery, Dallas
Review by Charissa Terranova


Jill Foley, 'The Mountain,' 2009, Site-specific installation

Jill Foley is a bricoleuse, making magic out of detritus and the ready-at-hand. A feminized version of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’ bricoleur, the bricoleuse is the opposite of the engineer. If the engineer is a scientist who thinks in terms of the big picture, the bricoleuse sees the world as a hodgepodge of unforeseen possibility. An accretive project, The Mountain is the result of four weeks of intense, non-stop labor and the open-ended product of crafty bricoleuse Foley.

A site-specific installation, The Mountain transforms the white walls of the large back room gallery at Conduit into an irregular warren of short, undulating, intestine passages. It challenges the conventional notion of the “object,” replacing the static thing with an active, evolving set of vectors in space. Locale of three happenings in the month of October, the structure is host to a bevy of highly imaginative works of framed, stuffed, and sewn works of art, some of which are intended for sale and others … well, you will have to ask the artist. It is unclear where curving wall-prop gives way to artwork for sale. An abstract painting, 400 Hundred Birds, hangs next to a drawing of rusted-out car, Broke Down. A smiling crumply-paper doll head pops out from a niche in the wall. On a shelf sits Adorno Loves Ducks Pencil Holder, a piece of tightly knit flat gray wool, the backside of which gives over to a cotton pencil pouch. The gray-knit side shows two wily ducks in full grin swimming away from a pig-like bear on an island. The pig-bear is Theodor Adorno, the Frankfurt School philosopher-curmudgeon as animal.

A recent graduate of Southern Methodist University’s MFA program, Foley turns her mind inside out in this installation, giving the world a sense of the reveries of her imagination. For many artists, the will to convey deep personal feelings can lead to treacly sentimentality. Foley’s tendency to work obsessively keeps this sentimentality in check, making the personal a public exercise in maniacal low-tech invention. Thomas Hirschhorn, a Swiss artist who similarly makes room-scaled installations out of taped-together boxes and sundry elements of trash, keeps the intimacy that comes with craft in check by making his installations hew to overt political themes. For Foley, it is the interactive, event-like nature of the project that universalizes what might otherwise fall into the trap of self-indulgence.

This article was written for and published in art ltd. magazine art ltd logo sml


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