Various works (2010-12)


A Minimal Difference (2012). Duration: 5:00

A Minimal Difference is shot using a multi-plane camera setup and features receding cell paintings referenced from widely circulated press images (barricades from political protests in Bangkok, bodies piled after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, furniture from an eviction in Cleveland, destruction in Gaza) and more metaphoric pictures (a logjam, clouds or smoke). Each tableau is separated into visual planes that, when filmed with movement, mimic the perception of optical distance.

“Within and against these cartoon-like settings, four figures recur: a blue square (or cube), a yellow triangle (or pyramid), a green circle (or sphere), and a red rectangle (or rectangular solid). They show up against a neutral gray background (Suprematist painting, basically), accompanied by a synthesizer note. But they also hijack the scenes of “realist” concern (poverty, war, violence) by asserting themselves – their flatness, their geometrical universality – over the “local” scenes. Kelly is not leveling tired charges against high modernism and its evacuation of History. Rather, A Minimal Difference introduces abstraction, as typically understood, into the realm of social representation, which always entails its own, less obvious substitutions.” – Michael Sicinski


Installation documentation from Coming After, The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada.

Pauline Boudry/Renate Lorenz, Aleesa Cohene, Glen Fogel, Onya Hogan-Finlay, Christian Holstad, Danny Jauregui, Adam Garnet Jones, Jean-Paul Kelly, Tim Leyendekker, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, James Richards, Emily Roysdon, Dean Sameshima, Jonathan VanDyke, Susanne M. Winterling

Jean-Paul Kelly, multiple works, 2008-2011, in order from left to right: Untitled (ink drawing, 2011), “Of what is past, passing, or to come.” (ink drawing with acrylic, 2008), Rags (archival inkjet prints/mats, 2010), Dwelling (ink drawing with acrylic, 2008), Untitled (Resettlement) (silver-gelatin print, 2011), The Economist (archival inkjet prints/painted mats, 2011), Limit (ink drawing, 2011) and Tissue (ink drawing, 2011).

“Of what is past, passing, or to come.” (ink drawing with acrylic, 2008), Rags (archival inkjet prints/mats, 2010), and Dwelling (ink drawing with acrylic, 2008).


The Economist, 2011. Archival inkjet prints and painted archival mats, 17.5 x 12.5 inches.


Dwelling, 2008. Ink drawing with acrylic paint, 16 x 20 inches.


Untitled (Resettlement), 2011. Silver-gelatin print, 12 x 12 inches.


Limit, 2011. Ink drawing, 66 x 30 inches.


Installation documentation from All Rag, No Bone, Mercer Union, Toronto, Canada.

Fennel Plunger Corporation (Jean-Paul Kelly, Steve Reinke and Anne Walk)


Rags, 2010.  Archival inkjet prints with archival mats (sizes vary according to the newspaper scale that each photograph references).

Gallery view, in order from left to right, top row to bottom row:

  1. Rag (El País). 12.4 x 18.5 inches (Berliner)
  2. Rag (An-Nahar). 12 x 22.75 inches (Broadsheet).
  3. Rag (La Jornada). 11 x 16.9 inches (Tabloid).
  4. Rag (Oslobođenje). 12.4 x 18.5 inches (Berliner).
  5. Rag (Pravda). 12 x 22.75 inches (Broadsheet).
  6. Rag (The Times, London and New York). 12 x 22.75 inches (Broadsheet).
  7. Rag (Haaretz). 12.4 x 18.5 inches (Berliner).
  8. Rag (Le Monde). 12.4 x 18.5 inches (Berliner).  

Detail: Rag (El País)

Detail: Rag (Le Monde)


Shutters, 2010. Archival inkjet prints, each 36 x 60 inches.

Gallery view, in order from left to right, listed with full image name:

  1. Shutter, Seattle–December 3, 1999 (Rick Giase/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  2. Shutter, Kashechewan–October 26, 2005 (Jonathan Hayward/CP Photo)
  3. Shutter, Cleveland–January 25, 2008 (Jamie-Andrea Yanak/AP Photo)
  4. Shutter, Orlando–September 3, 2004 (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)


Shutter, Cleveland–January 25, 2008 (Jamie-Andrea Yanak/AP Photo)


Shutter, Orlando–September 3, 2004 (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)


Jean-Paul Kelly’s Rags and Shutters series, both 2010:

From an email interview with Sarah Robayo Sheridan, curator Mercer Union (Toronto):

SRS: Can you talk about the Rag photo series that you’ve developed?

JPK: The process behind the construction of Rags is much the same as for all of my work–photographs, drawings or video. They reference pictures from my own ongoing archive of photographs and clippings culled from online databases such as Google Images and Flickr and online and print-based newspaper photojournalism. The photographs I accumulate are of world events as represented in professional news media and by online contributors or citizen journalists as well as more idiosyncratic photographs of events and specific objects that I have been attracted to in my research. I look at composition and the common characteristics of the content of these photographs. They are placed into folders according to the content of the picture: the folder “rags” is a sub-folder of the more general “coverings” and has its own subfolders, just as “foreclosures” is a subfolder of “shutters.”

Rags began from photographs of the Madrid train bombings in 2004. In these pictures, medical and trauma personnel hold up blankets and towels to cover the severed limbs and eviscerated bodies of the victims of the attack. This blocks our view of the grotesque scene and respects the rights of the dead, but it also creates something that cannot be seen—a blank spot. What we are looking at when we see these photographs is really nothing: we are not allowed to picture and that is the real site of the trauma. Along with other pictures from car accidents, the Mexican drug wars, the Bosnian war, Gaza and the Russian train bombings last year, these rags are represented in frames the size of one page of a newspaper—broadsheet, tabloid, Berliner—from the city or state where the referenced event took place. I want to explore my strange, immediate access to the distance of these pictures. As [Susan] Sontag suggests, an ethical, politically effective social-documentarian must engage with the idea that the pictures they make create a familiarity that is most often unearned by an audience. I am, in part, interested in exaggerating these divisions through the production and condition of the work as art.

[Shutters are likewise references to mass circulated photo-documentary images.  The title of each photograph in the series contains the name of the place where the reference photo was taken, its date and the author and photo agency that own the image rights to that source image. Each Shutter is reproduced to the scale of the standard North American domestic bedroom window.]

For [Marshall] McLuhan, the effects of media technology are mythic and transcendental, existing outside of the maker’s conscious control, residing somewhere else, always coming back to “massage” our understanding of the medium.  And this externalization of the effect of the picture, its depoliticization, together with Sontag’s unearned entry into the politics of the picture, is an imperative dialectic to my understanding of those combating forces at work when reading a picture, those of idealism and materiality. I think that, as Slavoj Zizek has written, analysis of such internal dialectics—here, within the picture of a blanket or a piece of plywood—that is, analysis of the object’s own “minimal difference” to itself, “as such,” constituted by the interior gap between materialist and lived experience, is an inherent part of contemporary (social) practices of representation.