The tensions between anonymity and fame, privacy and publicity also escalate in a story where social media is pivotal, making the Steubenville rape a microcosm of larger forces in modern American society. Presumptions of what is private and what is public get turned upside down and inside out. In the Pitzer installation, which is best seen after the nearby one at Pomona, those conflicted presumptions blanket the gallery.
The Broad Center's small, tall Nichols Gallery is lined with 56 large text drawings pinned in vertical rows on three walls. The fourth wall holds a small, meticulous drawing in colored pencil of Anonymous activists, each holding a public protest sign aloft.
The larger texts are transcriptions of digital messages written by participants and associates during the rape and in the days after. It's a paperless trail, which was retrieved from cellphones and tablets and submitted as evidence during the trial.
Bowers restores paper to the trail. She presents the digital text as negative space floating within vigorously hatched clouds, rendered with felt-tip pens in bruised colors of deep blue, turquoise and purple ink.
The formal technique is simple (if painstaking to produce), but remarkably effective. Her analog mark-making adds material weight and emphatic presence to a shocking and elusive digital narrative, which includes a text-message conversation between one of the pleading, dissembling rapists and his dazed and increasingly horrified victim.
The victim, identified throughout only as Jane Doe, was first violated in the flesh, then on social media and finally in the press. Drawing, emphasized in the gestural scrawls that Bower employs, is the artistic medium most powerfully propelled by intimate touch.
That resonates, quietly yet powerfully, with the subject of sexual violence — not to mention with the abstractions of media violence, whether of the social or corporate variety.
As she often does, Bowers accompanies the exhibition with a table of take-away pamphlets and fliers on social services related to the wrenching theme. On the mezzanine at Nichols, she has also lined a wall with pages copied from a published guide to issues related to sex and gender produced for students by Skidmore College. She alternates the pages with sheets of reflective Mylar.
Seeing your blurred reflection while scanning the text illuminates its personal consequence and ambiguities. That's exactly what the assembled inquiries need.
Andrea Bowers: '#sweetjane'
Where: Pomona College Museum of Art, 333 N. College Way, Claremont and Nichols Gallery, Pitzer College, 1050 N. Mills Ave., Claremont
When: At Pomona College of Art: Through April 13; closed Mondays. At Pitzer, through March 28. Closed Saturdays through Mondays.