Jeffrey W. Morin
NoShoes Gallery and Performance Space
The Art Center on First
Jersey City, New Jersey
By Jhan Hochman, Art Papers, March & April, 1994
Jeffrey Morin’s houses are the most protestant of spaces, the sacred democratized, a man’s house, his beloved temple. Their black facades glow with a white halo; light emanates from windows and doors. The dream homes have giant guardians to prevent outside violation of private confidences (intimate exchanges being the subject of three of Morin’s other works, Confessions, Catherine’s Confessions, and Catherine and the Mute). Solemn divergences exchanged inside the sacred home democratize confession. The confessee in several of these confessionals is Catherine Voucher, also appearing outside these frames in several short dance performances gracing Morin’s opening. With Catherine’s dance company, Ministry of Motion, and Morin’s Catholic works — also in the show are a Christos, The Annunciation of Joseph, and several other works with “Saint” in the title. The gallery space is doubly sacralized (no shoes in temple) by art and by Christian themes. The gallery/museum atmosphere is redolent within an idolatry of artwork and apotheosis of artist is so prevalent in the West, where the created (nature, including artificial nature and humanity) is worshiped rather than the Creator (Christ in Christos looks remarkably similar to Morin himself). Art, no longer found inside the temple, makes a temple of any structure housing it. Morin’s contributions to the sacralization of art and artist is, however, in a simultaneous desacralization by his art’s constant reference to, and variation on, Christian iconography. Herein lies the traditional slippage between the representation of artist as god, i.e. Anselm Kiefer’s monumental and elemental works, and God as a craftsman or architect, as the Godlike figure is in Blake’s The Ancient of Days. In some sense, Morin reconciles the age-old problem of anthropomorphizing God and deifying the human through making the exalted, yet profane, space (home or studio) refer back to the Christian sacred. Morin’s work is blasphemous, and so, all the more sacred.
But it must be asked: Why “Christian” art now? Morin appears to be afraid of profanity, of the space outside the home better known as public sphere. Where are the devils that must be kept at bay? Only one in the show furnishes a hint. In Social Tension a skinhead’s profile is framed by the cooling towers of a nuclear plant. Said skinhead has a Mohawk, with his row of hair crenelated, reminding one of the cog. He is a kind of robotic victim of a cloistered, unilateral environment, at home with a discourse of hate. The nuclear plant and the kid, preoccupied with power, are mechanistic threats. Morin depicts them in order to “master” them, to become inured to them. This is art as devil control, as revenge on Machine, perhaps explaining Morin’s use of older technologies of art and craft, a middle technology more under the control of craftsperson and artist. There are no mechanistic are electronic art technologies in Morin’s show, only monotypes, gouaches, and one oil, the latter aptly used for the Christos. In fact, Morin operates in the realm of cottage industry: the artist, besides teaching, runs an old printing shop utilizing lead type to produce his own elegant handmade books.
This brings us back to the domestic sphere, home sweet home. Those houses mentioned above are probably warmed by a hearth, filled with art and craft, smelling of baking bread. Morin is cultivating his own backyard in an ever-invasive world. We wondered if his home will increasingly become a fortress. While we might hope he holds onto the house and home and nurtures the cottage arts, we are made aware of the outside world largely through its continuous absence. When it finally appears as polluted air, devilishly monumental nuclear towers, and a white supremacist skinhead, it’s not a pretty picture. Home is where the (sacred) heart is. Terror’s at the gate. It’s no wonder Morin’s “monastic” art rouse’s a delicate trembling.