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JanGroover Untittled ca 1978


Laboratory of Forms

21/07/2023 - 12/11/2023

Curatrs: Émilie Delcambre and Tatyana Franck



The exhibition looks back at Jan Groover’s entire body of work with a selection of more than 150 photographs and objects that showcase her professional career, the result of extensive research that highlights Groover’s unique creative process.

The show’s curators, Émilie Delcambre Hirsch and Tatyana Franck, have made a careful selection of pieces to uncover Groover’s artistic process and reveal the experimental nature of her work and influence on modern photography. The works have been divided into 4 sections:

Polyptychs: Down the Road of Photography
Trained as a painter, Jan Groover began her photographic work “through the back door.” She bought her first camera in 1967 and started as a self-taught photographer, an event she described as “my first act as an adult.”

Although her initial images were trivial photos of her surroundings, they soon became complex polyptychs that combined several shots together. The specific arrangement of these photographs led to a true visual play that focused not only on the object depicted – deliberately obscured or, on the contrary, multiplied – but also on rhythm, space and temporality. During this time, Jan Groover began exploring the characteristics of the photographic medium, such as its ability to visually isolate a phenomenon from the rest of the world and abstract it from time, in addition to its mimetic capabilities.

Her polyptychs, the launching pad of her formal plastic considerations, were on display in 1974 at the Light Gallery in New York, a pioneer in the field of contemporary photography.

Still Lifes
Still lifes occupy a pivotal position in Jan Groover’s work. It is a subject to which the artist returned repeatedly throughout her career. This fondness for an essential figurative genre undoubtedly stemmed from Groover’s training as a painter, which strengthened her intuition that an artist must “construct” her own vision of things, without hesitating to represent the elements at hand.

From her iconic Kitchen Still Lifes, begun in 1977, to her final creations in the 2000s, Jan Groover explored this genre time and time again, situating her artistic practice within the history of painting, sculpture and photography while always continuing to be innovative.

The still life is to a certain extent the link between the temporalities and forms of representation around which Jan Groover’s entire body of work revolves.

Platinum and Palladium: Towards a (re)Discovery of Platinum
Patented in 1873 by the British inventor William Willis, the platinum printing process helped to create contact prints with a monochromatic reproduction that recalled engraving, based on intense black tones and subtle greys. Platinum is sometimes replaced or mixed with palladium, thereby “warming” the halftones of the image towards brown.

Although the process gradually fell into disuse, it attracted renewed interest in the 1960s and 1970s from a number of contemporary photographers, such as Irving Penn. These artists shared a common enthusiasm for old (so-called “alternative”) artisanal processes that allowed them to revisit the technical history of the process.

Jan Groover discovered the platinum/palladium printing process in 1979 thanks to her colleague Jed Devine. Although he initially found the technique overly “romantic” and totally anachronistic, he eventually surrendered to its charms. This practice marked a new phase in her work that led her to explore genres other than still life, such as landscape, portraiture and the nude.

The French Years
Jan Groover and her husband left the United States in 1991. Although they had originally planned to settle in Paris, they ultimately bought a country house near Montpon-Ménestérol, a small village in the Dordogne.

This break from the New York art scene marked a gradual evolution in Jan Groover’s career. Forced to give up her job as a teacher in New York, the artist continued her photographic practice, and she also continued to serve occasionally on juries and to participate in photography workshops.

This exhibition is the third stage of a European tour. Following its presentation at Photo Elysée in Lausanne (Switzerland), where the artist’s personal collection has been deposited since 2017, and its subsequent visit to the Fondation Cartier-Bresson in Paris (2022-2023).

Jan Groover. Untitled, ca. 1978. © Photo Elysée – Jan Groover Archives





JangGroover-retrato Jan Groover (1943-2012)


Jan Groover (1943-2012) was a remarkable American photographer who played a key role in the development of colour photography, renowned for her formal inquisition into still life, as well as her exploration of various creative techniques, such as the use of platinum/palladium prints.
Originally trained as a painter, Groover's exploration of space and volume was permeated by her interest in Renaissance works and the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi. But she abandoned painting in 1967 and took up photography as a kind of challenge, realising that the discipline was “not taken seriously” in the United States. The purchase of her first camera was, in her own words, her “first adult decision.” Her enthusiasm for abstraction and the pictorial could already be seen in her first series of polyptychs, in which the subject multiplies, divides or hides behind opaque forms to the point of negation.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Groover turned to still life, a traditional genre in pictorial art, experimenting with it until the end of her life through impressively diverse subjects, formats and techniques. At a time when documentary photography was at the forefront, Groover applied her experience as a painter to photography, giving due credit to abstract photography by creating images for the sake of form, far removed from meaning and statement. In addition to her still lifes, Groover also produced series on motorways, portraits and body parts.
She moved to France in 1991 with her husband, the painter Bruce Boice, where she died on 1 January 2012. Thanks to him, Groover’s archive has been conserved at Photo Elysée, museum for photography in Switzerland since 2017. In light of prints, preparatory drawings and archive documents, many of which have never been exhibited, the retrospective looks back at artist’s whole career for the first time, without overlooking her work as a teacher and collector. It aims to highlight the creative power of a woman who believed that “you have to make everything up anyway”.
Jan Groover had the virtue of constantly reinventing herself, thereby leaving her mark on the history of photography.


Unknown author. Portrait of Jan Groover. Montpon-Ménestérol, France, ca. 1991 © Photo Elysée – Fonds Jan Groover




Commented tours:



5.30 p.m. Basque  / 6.30 pm Spanish

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