A painter-turned-photographer. An American, who chose Europe to be her home. Jan Groover did not hesitate when it came to making bold decisions, and that translated into her uncompromising photography.
Still from a film JAN GROOVER: TILTING AT SPACE, a documentary by TINA BARNEY and MARK TROTTENBERG
While slicing and dicing Groove’s photos, one gets surprised with their simplicity: forks, a knife, a spoon, a glass bowl, fruit, vegetables, domestic trinkets. That’s all. The methods she used to create illusory, precise compositions, made with supplies that everyone could find in their own kitchen, remain her secret. Her art was valued by critics of her own times – in 1987 her works were presented at an individual exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Years later, while viewing the pieces with a fresh eye, we can definitely say they haven’t gotten old, not even a little bit.
The photographic eye of Jan Groover (1943-2012), a girl from Plainfield, New Jersey, was largely shaped by her fascination with art. When buying her first camera in 1967 – a 35mm Pentax – Groover was a freshly graduated painter (she’ll later get her Master’s Degree in 1970, at Ohio State University). It was abstraction that drove her towards painting: the forms, the colour, which she looked for on the streets, and, later on, in a photography atelier. Experimenting along the way, she slowly grows into the decision to leave the canvas for celluloid film. – With photography I didn’t have to make things up. Everything was already there – she later explains. In the earliest stages of her creative work, before Still Life became her favourite genre, she created diptychs and triptychs, combining cityscapes and rushing vehicles.
Thanks to the funds from a scholarship granted in 1978 by the National Endowment for the Arts, the American comes into ownership over a large format camera, which she’ll use to create her most acclaimed works making up the „Kitchen Sill Lifes” (1977–1980) and „Tabletop Still Lifes” (1982–1986) series.
Her love for the old-time analogue techniques, including making prints using the platinum-palladium method, as well as chromogenic color print, is one of the main characteristics which differentiates her work from the work of her colleagues. The second trait is her love for colour, which, in the 70s, is still being considered ‘vulgar’, and is mostly associated with the loud commercial photography. Jan Groover defiantly chooses the upstream path, bringing colour into the artistic still-life-photography. And that’s where the magic begins.
The American uses colour (as well as black&white) in a painteresque way, she plays with the light, reflection, depth and form. Using simple objects she builds sublime images of a magnetic value. – I had some wild concept that you can change space – which you can – the artist states. It’s true – she knew how to do it.