Jan Groover, whose complex still life tableaux earned her comparisons to Paul Cezanne, died January 1, the Janet Borden Inc. gallery in New York, reports. She was 68. The cause of death was not announced.
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1943, she studied painting at the Pratt Institute and received her MFA from Ohio University. She began taking photographs in the late Sixties, and abandoned painting in favor of photography in the 1970s, at a time when William Eggleston and other artists were pioneering the use of color photography. After shooting 35mm street photos in New York, Groover began exploring still-life photography. She would assemble humble kitchen utensils, food and household objects and, using a 4x5 camera, transform them into an array of patterns, shapes and colors. Curator and critic Susan Kismaric said of Groover’s still lifes, “Houseplants, knives, forks, and spoons appear larger than life. Our common understanding of the meaning of these pedestrian objects is transformed to a perception of them as exotic and mysterious.” Writing in The New York Times, critic Andy Grundberg noted that a gallery show of Groover’s still lifes caused “a sensation” in 1978. “When one appeared on the cover of Artforum magazine, it was a signal that photography had arrived in the art world - complete with a marketplace to support it."
Her experimentation continued, as she moved to shooting black and white and producing platinum palladium prints. Her work was included in the Whitney Biennial in 1981. Groover had a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1987, the year photographer Tina Barney produced a documentary about Groover titled “Tilting at Space.” She taught at the State University of New York at Purchase for many years until the early Nineties, when she and her husband, artist and writer Bruce Boice, moved to Montpon-Menesterol, France.
Her books include Jan Groover, published in 1976, and the 1983 Jan Groover: Photographs, with an introduction by John Szarkowski, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Her work was exhibited at George Eastman House, the International Center of Photography, the Cleveland Museum of Art and other museums around the world. She received the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
She is survived by her husband, Bruce Boice.