Jo Ann Callis

Artillery Magazine


Uneasy undercurrents seep from Jo Ann Callis‘ delusively simple images. Her versatile talent for finding eeriness in the everyday is amply demonstrated in “Now and Then” at ROSEGALLERY. This manifold selection of paintings, sculptures and photographs from the 1970’s to present is diverse yet insightfully arranged, educing correspondences among various bodies of work. In the main gallery, photographs of similar subjects are hung in suggestive pairs or trios hinting at ambiguous stories extending between their separate frames. For instance, Yellow Room (1977), a sallow rendition of a spartan chamber with unmade bed, is displayed next to Wet Jacket (1979, pictured above), depicting tub water sanguinely reddened from a sopping sweater. These two unsettling scenes together intimate the dreariness of austere lives such as in dormitories or halfway houses. Across the room, close-cropped views of tables and their awkwardly posed human inhabitants evoke moments where senses of normalcy fleetingly dissolve into impressions of total weirdness. Scatological insinuations are frequently embedded in Callis’ domestic settings and utilitarian household items: a soaking black towel, for instance, appears excremental. Drastically oversized and framed by drab curtains, a naturalistically painted baby portrait is imbued with inexplicable oddness. A set of diminutive new abstract sculptures occupies turntables near a sign encouraging visitors to touch them.   Nothing ever seems quite right in Callis’ work, a feeling that intensifies the longer you look or touch. Yet generally you are left at a loss for putting your finger on precisely what is wrong in her strange scenarios that, deceptively, appear so normal.