Ann Craven invokes a similarly quirky process with the moon paintings she’s been making since 1996. During a single evening, she’ll render a series of small canvases depicting the dark sky. The act of repetition further distances Craven from the original event. At Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, she once hung 400 14-by-14-inch canvases tracking the changing moon.
In contrast to Craven’s and Riepenhoff’s gestural renderings, Vija Celmins has long been known for exacting depictions of starry night skies that are actually derived from photographs. Celmins’s work is impressive for its precision—each drypoint print, charcoal drawing, or lithograph can take months to make. When hung on the wall, they resemble portals through the gallery walls; horizonless escapes into the heavens.
If Riepenhoff and Celmins offer mystical, meditative visions of the darkened sky, Michal Rovner’s representations suggest something more insidious. In 2016, the Israeli artist mounted an exhibition entitled “Night” at Pace Gallery
, filled with still and moving images of jackals. The nocturnal animals appear dark and blurred at the edges, foreboding and portentous.
Rovner’s new film, Nilus (2018)—on view now at Pace’s outpost in Chelsea—continues this fascination. On a split screen, a jackal slowly moves its head back and forth. Its bright, round eyes are the most striking features in this haunting night-vision portrayal. Rows of small lines, almost like tally marks, overlay the animal’s figure. Upon closer inspection, they resemble silhouettes of humans waving their hands. The strange scale makes the jackal ever more imposing. Rovner said that over the past few years, she’s been considering the tensions in the world that result from movements of refugees and massive terrorist attacks.