Jordan Marani has piled five old TVs flickering afternoon programs to represent five brothers, including the ‘new’ one he’d discovered late. Black and white ‘Mr Ed’ is playing on the top screen so my guess is that must be an older brother. The little screen represents Jordy, because he is the youngest and it is at the very bottom, I suppose—according to the catalogue it’s showing the bulldog from Looney Tunes’s Chow Hound.
Xmas is a four-letter word is split in two halves with text works and recent portrait paintings on one side and at left/centre sixty or so small-scale works from as early as 1986 but mostly completed through the early and middle 1990s. These earlier works feel slightly strange now, marked as they are by time and a different regime of language, but I’m thinking too that the wider account Jordan plays out here—the exhibition and his act of self-historicising—is stirred by how long memories are so often missing in action these days. Only a few viewers or art professionals would have any recollection of these works I would guess. Jordan’s art is at one level contained within personal idioms and affections, but he is in fact an insider and ‘survey’-making says as much. In this sense making history on his own terms is purposefully set in the exhibition against today’s wider context of impossibly stacked attentions devoted to contemporary revisions.
The actual stories Jordan ascribes to these early works, the first-person contacts they make and the abrupt, demonstrably close viewpoints, are calibrated as a glue or a binder from one to another. Jordy uses materials as binders. His blunt face-down of attitudes and upbringing isn’t just an invocation of family, brothers and absent parents, but creates a kind of physical blur or shorthand that flows across the exhibition. Cardboard cartons, tin can lids and artworks with words like ‘wogs’, ‘shit’ and ‘arse’ collapse into a very confined, pushed-together space so they touch. Greasy paint circa 1991 therefore equals honest: bereft but willing. Four letters equals foul but sincerely yours. You would have to close your eyes first but maybe there is an art stack too, another pile. Is this OK? The glue extends as a male sauce thing that is a point of fact more than right of exclusion and connects Jordan with a community of artists that would include Ralph Balson, Robert Rooney, Mike Nichols and Raafat Ishak.
The male thing actively looks to women too, for instance in a work such as Mother, 1991, that puts ‘habit’ in the same frame as ‘tenderness’. I like the poetics of these works. They are studied and reserved.
Jordan Marani, Xmas is a four-letter word, Daine Singer, Melbourne, 28 August – 5 October 2013.