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00061319 : TROPHY II/IX

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: March 29, 2019

Artist Description: You are young, like a baby, inexperienced, but also, hard to grasp. I have the feeling that every time I get my grip om you, you just slide into a new shape. He said. I answered. I am Iona and I will be what I want.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

“The trophy series was made in 2007. I did these because I was approached by lots of galleries at the time that wanted to show my digital animal prints. I was a student and got overwhelmed with the attention so I made these works that depicts a hunter with a dead animal. The hunter has been drawn as the same animal as it has shot.” This is how Jonas Kasper Jensen describes his 11-piece series “Trophy,” though this seemingly-vital information isn’t obvious, nor included with each piece; it’s buried away in the Artist Description for the 4th piece in Jensen’s Superrare catalogue, seeming not as much a declaration of intent as something he’d forgotten to mention before. That Jensen views this underlying throughline as something to be included, you know, at some point, is rather interesting. One might expect an artist to centralize such information, attaching it to every piece in the collection, ensuring that no observer is led astray by false assumptions. Instead, with most of the “Trophy” pieces, we are given narrativist descriptions, like that attached to the piece in question here, 00061319 : TROPHY II/IX. “You are young, like a baby, inexperienced, but also, hard to grasp. I have the feeling that every time I get my grip on you, you just slide into a new shape. He said. I answered. I am Iona and I will be what I want.” 

At some point, we have to choose which reading of the piece works best for us, exposes the work most fully for us, allows it the most freedom to speak to us. Jensen is very kind in offering a framework for the series elsewhere, but by leaving it off of 00061319 : TROPHY II/IX, he does us a brilliant favor. Now we get to approach the piece from any angle, see it without previous intent or intonation. It can just be what it is, or whatever we think it is. It can exist fully within the confines of its frame, no artist necessary.

And what is in that frame? A dead leopard. A living leopard. A backdrop of blue sky and a green hill, both seeming to have been drawn in Microsoft Paint by a talented child, or perhaps a rather simplistic adult. The schlockiness of the art style is hard to get past, harder to ignore. It characterizes the background, the two leopards at the center of the piece. It’s a hallmark of the whole series. Jensen, elsewhere, proves he has impressive technical ability, so we can safely assume we’re in the hands of intent, that this does not reflect a best effort as much as it does a stylistic choice. The dead leopard, its back legs crossed, lies sprawled over the span of the hill, its fur dark, its eyes shut, its form elongated, slightly weird. The live leopard prowls over it, stretched directly over its partner’s torso. This animal is shorter, brighter, and bears a single open eye, its whites exceedingly white, its blue iris the same color as the sky behind it. In Jensen’s signature style, a phrase is written along each of the image’s edges. Some are easy to guess at: “0061319” is presumably the date of completion, and “Trophy IИX” is the name of the series. “Iona Apples” and “Inexperienced Deficit,” decorating the west and north edges of the image, are less forthcoming. Perhaps Jensen has hidden answers in the descriptions of other works. Perhaps understanding them is also less than integral to the piece.

As such, let’s move on.

Let’s move on to the arrangement of the animals, the two cartoonish, slumped leopards, one dead, one seeming to reckon with the reality of what it’s done/seen. These are not meant to be realistic depictions. I hope they aren’t; look at those paws! Look at the skin, seeming to be less like true spots and like some computer’s idea of a fungal infection. That’s not a negative, necessarily, it’s just a choice. It’s hard to know exactly why this piece would necessitate a central image so poorly drawn, or a background so simplistic, or physics so careless and uncared-for. But there’s surely a reason. It’s the central underlying question of this entire series. We are dealing with themes of life and death, or humanity’s impact upon the natural world, of metamorphosis, of an event’s gravity. Big themes. And yet, the way we’re shown these things is with rudimentary shapes, stock graphics, and barely a half-dozen colors.

Maybe Jensen is suggesting that these aforementioned concepts, so philosophical and grandiose when phrased in a certain way, are actually juvenile, easy to understand, natural. Honestly, what’s so hard to understand about death? It’s not rationality that has a hard time grasping it, but some ineffable, emotional part of us, something we’re now asked to think about. The same can be said for killing: Animals kill animals; humans kill animals; humans kill humans. In some senses, it’s the natural order of this. And yet, the simple depiction of the thing has us feeling stilted, put-off, confused. To that end, is the Living Leopard’s deadpan gaze a marker of its discomfort, or is it blasé we’re seeing depicted? The creature could be in an existential crisis or could be contemplating which paw to lick next, so to speak. We are given no choice, looking at 00061319 : TROPHY II/IX, to think about death, and murder, and hunting, and larger concepts of virtue, rightness, politics, all the things which inflect our thinking on those topics. We’re asked to consider our discomfort towards such things. And then we realize that it’s a Microsoft Paint scribble that’s made us feel this way. So we have to consider that too. 

Whatever it is you’re feeling, my guess is you were designed to feel that way. My guess is that the elementary aestheticism is a finely-shrouded veil for some much larger, headier ideas. Can you feel them, kicking around up there, like unknown animals scurrying around an attic?