Second Saturn Return

Canada is pleased to announce Second Saturn Return, its seventh solo exhibition with painter Xylor Jane. In a new set of vibrant, prismatic works on panel, Jane continues her exploration of the pleasures and mysteries of numbers and number systems. Gesturing to universal mathematical rules as well as autobiographical details, her paintings are intricate compositions tenderly rendered by hand.

In both Third Saturn Return and Days Alive (VHM), Jane transcribes the integer 32323 in a blocky font that hovers at the edge of intelligibility among a field of triangular zigs and zags of color. 32323 is a prime palindrome, meaning that it is only divisible by itself and 1 and that it reads the same forward and backward. 32323 is not only a favorite of Jane’s (because it contains two twos and three threes), but it is also the number of days that she will be alive when she is in the midst of her third Saturn return in the year 2051. More prime palindromes form the steps of a rainbow-hued ziggurat in Second Saturn Return. At the peak of the pyramid sits 30203, with figures increasingly larger on the way down—it’s hard not to marvel at the astonishing indivisible symmetry of 969837903020309738969.

In addition to representing favored numerals, Jane also creates paintings using systems for organizing sets of integers. Both Dancing Dogs and Lion’s Den, for example, are made using a counting spiral. To construct it, Jane divided the panel into a grid and planned that each small square within it would contain a set of dots between 1 and 9 (arranged in the configuration of a square-shaped domino). In ascending order, Jane added dots to the individual units in a square spiral pattern. The negative space was then filled with another color (yellow in the case of Lion’s Den). Upon completion, this process resulted in a repeating scalloped pattern.

Recently Jane has begun to layer these two methods atop one another—often generating unexpected results. In Robing, for instance, Jane has depicted the numbers in a 4 x 4 magic square, meaning that each column and row of the grid adds to 34. This is incorporated with a pattern of darting diagonal lines that represent the movements within what is known as a knight's tour magic square. The knight's tour magic square is a 16 x 16 grid that contains the integers 1 through 256, each in its own square. Because it is a magic square, each row and column add to the same sum—2,056. What makes the square even more impressive is that if one begins at 1 and proceeds in the up-and-over knight pattern (in chess the knight moves up one square and over two), one will eventually end at 256, having traversed each square only once. Jane’s diagonals in the painting track the back and forth of the knight’s journey. 

Complexly assembled square by square and millimeter by millimeter, Jane’s paintings are certainly decodable for those with the desire to do so. Nevertheless, following the knight’s path or the course of the counting spiral isn’t totally necessary. Jane’s glowing compositions also offer themselves as objects of devotion, inviting the viewer to marvel at renditions of remarkable numerals.

Xylor Jane (b. 1964) was born in Long Beach, CA and lives and works in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Jane attended the now-closed San Francisco Art Institute in the early 1990s. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the University Museum of Contemporary Art, Amherst, MA; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA; Canada, New York, NY; Parrasch Heijnen, Los Angeles, CA; Campoli Prest, Paris; Almine Rech, Paris; and Four, Dublin; among others. She received her BFA from SFAI in 1993.

– Written by Ashton Cooper