Jan Groover

1943 - 2012 · United States

Artist biography

The work of Jan Groover is very well known in her native United States. In 1979, the magazine Artforum International chose one of her still lifes as its first-ever photography cover. In 1987, the Museum of Modern Art New York staged a solo exhibition of her work and her oeuvre can be found in the collections of major U.S. museums. She also influenced generations of artists in her role as a professor of photography at State University, New York. She is especially admired by a younger generation of photographers as an important source of inspiration (a.o. A. Kelm, L. Blalock, E. Lazry, W. Tillmans, V. Binschtok or Sara Cwynar).

Before Jan Groover dedicated herself to photography, she was a painter. Born in 1943 in Plainfield, New Jersey, Groover turned away from abstract painting in the early 1970s to experiment with the medium of photography — a medium that seemed more open than the restrictive and male-dominated painting of the time.

Her approach to photography, however, remained ‘abstract’ in a certain sense. Her works remind less of the supposed authenticity of the observed moment associated with the medium but rather show a consciously staged image. Color and form dominate, perspective is vague, spatial ambiguousness is constructed, and light becomes an object in itself. Jan Groover was interested in photographic images that seemed precisely planned and made, rather than discovered and captured by the camera.

In the course of her artistic development, she eliminated the documentary elements from her works little by little and challenged the limits of the medium, investigating the relationship between the elements of an image — the aesthetic effect of structure and form — instead. Everything became form. Not just in her well known still lifes, for which she made her kitchen sink the site for formal-aesthetic experiments, but also in the early movement studies, the intimate figure photographs and the late, almost scenographic-looking arranged ensembles.

The astonishing thing is that Jan Groover’s works never stayed locked in strict and dry formalism. Instead, whatever she photographed was leant — in an always striking fashion and in wonderful balance — a certain depth and an unprecedented charm. John Szarkowski, art historian, curator, and at the time director of photography at MoMA, who presented a large solo exhibition of Jan Groover in 1987, put it this way: “Good to look at, good to think about.”

Jan Groover’s images don’t just resonate as a subtle record of feminism and the acceptance of photography as art, but also as extraordinary aesthetic investigations of a ‘fiction’ that is inseparably bound with the ‘factual’ conventions of the medium. Her work is still influencing successive generations of artists and, especially in light of current digital conventions and procedural image creation, seems fresh and timeless at the same time.

Jan Groover (born 1943 in Plainfield, USA; died 2012 in Montpon-Ménestérol, France) studied at the Pratt Institute and at Ohio State University. She has been represented in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the US and abroad. Her work was the focus of a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1987, and the subject of solo exhibitions at, among others, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York. Jan Groover‘s work is part of numerous public collections all over the world, a.o. The Museum of Mo- dern Art New York; SF Moma; The Metropolitan Museum, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington. Upcoming group-presentations include the Sprengel-Museum, Hannover, Kunsthaus Wien and GAK, Bremen. In September 2019 the Museé Elysee in Lausanne staged Groover‘s a major first retrospective in Europe, accompanied by a catalgue raisonée.

Jan Groover

  • Exhibitions 3

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