occational art
  298 Banfil St, St. Paul, MN 55102  651-292-0196  imfo@occasional.com


During exhibitions
Saturdays 11 am - 2 pm
and by appointment



Occasional Presents:

By John Neff

February 17 – April 14, 2007
Opening: Saturday, February 17, 4 – 7 pm

Alternate Titles:

Snowfall: An Explanation of and an End to Certain Themes and Motifs in the Art of John Neff


Snowfall: A Scene of Quiet Beauty

Occasional is pleased to present Snowfall by John Neff, a work possessed, simultaneously, by interminable logorrhea and mute solipsism. A re-presentation, examination and explanation of selected themes and motifs in Neff’s work of 1998 to 2001, Snowfall is also a covering-over of autobiography within his oeuvre in that self-reference is buried under its own accumulation. Further, the work is a winter for the figure of “The Artist,” Neff’s final refusal to depend on that doddering construction’s authority.

Neither photography nor sculpture, and not necessarily an installation, Snowfall could more accurately be called a criticism, claim or complaint in sculpto-graphic form. The work represents a wintry Minnesota landscape and is constructed of re-deployed documentary and production artifacts from a series of multi-media arrangements (or “sets”) and photographic pieces that Neff created in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Visitors to Occasional are greeted by a snowy curtain pieced together from fragments of white dress shirts, remnants from the production of Neff’s Sears Pictures of 1998-1999. A sculptural bust shaped from this curtain presents this press release, as well as information documenting the sources of Snowfall’s iconographic and material references. At two-week intervals throughout the duration of Snowfall, further installments of this press release will be posted in the gallery and online at www.occasionalart.com.

Passing through the curtain and into Occasional’s main gallery space, visitors see a large photomural in cool blue tones. Composed from cyanotype prints (literal blueprints) on Tyvek, this mural depicts a bare tree (Godot Tree, a copy of a piece of scenery from a 1975 production of Waiting For Godot presented in Neff’s Repetitions, 2000) and a pair of disembodied legs (Ground Segal from 2000's Figure / Ground) as well as gallery floor plans and reproductions of works by other artists. Tyvek, the mural’s substrate, was the primary material of Scott Speh’s 2003 Occasional exhibition The Farewell Tour. White monochrome paintings on home-wrap supports, the pieces in that show were Speh’s last works of art: he now operates Western Exhibitions, a Chicago art gallery exhibiting, among others, Neff and Aaron Van Dyke, co-director of Occasional.

Within the curtained enclosure of the gallery, the floor is covered with the oiled paper negatives used in the photomural’s printing. Massed in corners, they resemble snowdrifts, or perhaps studio detritus from the production of Van Dyke’s Swirl photographs, which depicted eddies of white packing peanuts blown against uninflected black backdrops. The Swirl pictures were first exhibited in 1996 in Madison, Wisconsin, at a gallery run by Neff out of his home. They were later included in Cold Conceptualism, an exhibition that Neff co-curated at Chicago’s Suitable gallery. The white floor as a compositional device was also present in Neff’s 1998 curatorial project White, which included works by both Speh and Van Dyke.

Rising in the middle of the room is the plaster form used in the production of the fabric presentational bust. A cast taken from Neff’s head and shoulders in the pose of the Sears Pictures, this plaster body fragment is a mute counterpoint to its cloth double.


The multi-media arrangements from which the majority of Snowfall’s motifs are drawn were termed by Neff “sets.” Of the sets, he has written:

After completing the work now titled Empty Space, I began to use the term "set" rather than “installation" to describe large-scale environmental artworks composed from multiple and discrete elements. While installation may accurately describe my earlier works, I feel that it implies a relationship to site that Empty Space, Figure / Ground and Repetitions do not have. The later works were not specifically tailored to one site, and can be shown in any location as long as the prescribed placement of the objects is maintained.

This shift in approach and language was precipitated in large part by my growing dissatisfaction with what I had come to see as the easy, predictable effects offered by site-specific installation. The sets were the first steps in an ongoing project: attempting to make artworks that retain the referential complexity and keen awareness of conditions of production / distribution which characterize the best post-modern art while also aspiring to a formal autonomy, however contingent.

I approached my project with tongue partly in cheek, concentrating the first sets on the "formal properties" of artworks as they are taught in contemporary art schools (Empty Space = negative space, etcetera). This concentration on "first principles" allowed me to gather and associate diverse references within each set. These references, in concert with each piece's formal arrangement, articulated secondary and tertiary themes.

A field dusted with disorganized allusions, Snowfall is not a logical grouping but a disused stage littered with the props of long-closed productions. In this house, presenter and audience are one and the soliloquy is a whispered chaos of personal histories, pointed questions, claims of priority, vague recriminations and disordered observations. Old man’s mutterings. Not the death of “The Artist,” “The Personal,” but the beginning of his and its decline into irrelevance.

Press Release <pdf (64k)>

Press Release 2 (includes press release part 1 & 2)
<pdf (180k)>

Press Release 3 (part 3 only) <pdf (240k)>

Press Release 4 (part 4 only) <pdf (400k)>

Press Release 5 (delayed, part 5 only) <pdf (392k)>