Jennifer Bailey’s subdued exhibition “Small Room” conveys the everyday solitude of art practice. Photographs of Tupperware pasta, coins, and mundane studio objects speak to domestic penny-pinching and part-time gigs. The room is dominated by four large and imposingly blank stretches of polyester fleece that almost resemble mattress protectors. Mounted on the adjacent walls, two scale models call to mind miniature high-street shop fronts. Renfrew Street, 2013/2022, houses some dirty glasses, while Art Room, 2001/2022, contains a plastic bag with two oranges, which both appear surreally oversize, like the giant apple in René Magritte’s The Listening Room, 1952. The C-print Old Cables, 2022, makes a humorous nod to the futile but unshakable desire for artistic recognition by featuring one of the toy aliens from Toy Story. (These identical characters, famously, were trapped in a vending machine, waiting for the mythical claw to pick them out.) Scented chemicals dispersed through the space evoke a fleeting intimacy with success as well; the woody citrus of Jessica Stockholder, 2022, leaves the distinct impression of an art-world celebrity walking past.
The self-conscious sparsity highlights the aims and contingencies of Bailey’s artistic output, neatly aligning a dematerialized aesthetic with the personal reality of living under austerity economics. This contextual framing is reinforced by Studio photo, 2008–22, which shows a brainlike shape covered in newspaper headlines pertaining to the financial crash of 2008. But just when things begin to feel settled, Bailey pulls the rug out again, branding the back of one stretcher with a sticker visible to the street through the gallery window. It reads, simply, “fraud.”