Since man stood upright and began walking this earth, literally “holding his heads up”, he became homo videns, a person who has the overview, a person who sees. Above all this upright position freed his arms and legs so he was able to wave and signal, thus he became the homo signum dans, a person who can give signs. People have been giving and receiving signs since thousands of years. This process has been accelerating this last century until our day: Humans in the age of information.
In “Zeichen unter Zeichen” (signs among signs) Jay Gard explores the sign language of humans, the icon, the pictogram, and the emergence and the development of signs. Since humans do not just wave or signal with hands but instead have always been marking and designating objects, we are surrounded by signs and the signified in the object world. To some extent signs in their turn refer to already well-known and internalized signs. We only have to walk through any big city — a jungle of signs: here a stoplight, a pharmacy or a public toilet, there a fast food restaurant or a gas station. The way is shown to us through signs.
In Rotterdam, Jay Gard built an installation in front of the Van Nelle Factory using two tourist signposts just like the ones you would find in every highway around the world. He reduced the images to a two-part geometrical form that is reminiscent of a horizon. He takes this idea further in “Zeichen unter Zeichen”. This time, the two signposts in the exhibition hall exhibit the same form; one computer-generated and perfect, while the other is implied through a hand-drawn line, so they both make a completely different impression. We connect the two together in our mind’s eye despite the differences and we sense the affinity.
Alongside the two signposts, we see monolithic sculptures packed in black film in “Zeichen unter Zeichen”. Everything is reminiscent of forms and objects from the urban environment. Construction site material, signposts, packaging. Due to their packaging, the sculptures have something threatening and ambiguous. Jay Gard seems to want to lead the exhibition into the city. When we walk out of the exhibition, the city becomes the exhibition. Everywhere signs and forms; our perception has been transformed through our encounter with Jay Gard’s work.
Signs do not just occur through precise signaling but —since they are anchored in the collective unconscious— also through the environment they are in and through inversion, through what has been left out, the void, the open space. In sculpture, the drawing (the outline) becomes what has been left out, the omission. Through these cavities, the whole body changes.
Beside the signposts and the monolith sculptures, Jay Gard is also showing eight small sculptures on pedestals next to each other in front of the main wall of the exhibition hall. These repeat the signifying on a smaller scale. Made of metal and wood, they refer to the forms and the curves of the larger objects. They too turn the void, the omission, and even the hole to crucial signs, to pictograms and to food for thought.
The smaller objects glow colorful, whereas the larger objects and installations are black or dark blue. Where bodily presence is taken aback, Jay Gard allows himself an exploration of color. Coloring, of course, is the second decisive parameter for every sign. Red signalizes danger or sex, blue calms, yellow is jolly. Together with form, the omission and the color, these sculptures become physical references to a world. Since Jay Gard wants to keep our sight and thoughts in motion, he leaves many things ambiguous or in abeyance. His signs do not tell us “this is how it is”, they suggest “it could be this way”. And with this experience, Jay Gard releases us. With an eye that has been refined yet unsettled. Jay Gard leads us outside of the gallery space into a new world. How could one ask for more?
Jay Gard established a distinctive, unmistakable language of his own in recent years and is among the young independent positions that continue the legacy of artists such as Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd or Richard Artschwager. In a new world. In a world of “Zeichen unter Zeichen”.