Archive for the ‘Blog Authors’ Category

Don’t Look Back: The CCNY Staff Show

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Photo courtesy of CCNY

Photo courtesy of CCNY

Last week, I attended the opening reception of the CCNY staff group show titled Don’t Look Back that was co-curated by I-Hsuen Chen and Alexander Perrelli. The show is up through this Saturday, July 27th.

It is always interesting to me with group shows where each artist is only showing 1-2 pieces to see how curators weave a story out of the show’s theme. In this case, Chen and Perrelli open their show with three images that instantly set a melancholic tone and place the viewer in limbo. First, we see Car Pelleteri’s Heather & I, Brighton Beach 16×20 print of an old snapshot of the photographer and her friend in bikinis with their backs to the camera looking over their shoulder at us. The time code on the snapshot says “91 6 28″. The next piece by John Stanley of his In a Hidden Place series shows a clearing in a wooded area with ropes or ties between tree branches. It is clear someone was here, but there is an ominous ambiguity about what we are looking at that is only amplified by the snapshot as evidence we just saw. With the third image, we meet our witness. In Michael J. Dalton II’s Untitled #13 a teenage girl lounges on a tree branch looking us in the eye with a bored expression like she knows what we’re thinking. We can have the past, because all she cares about is the future.

Photo by Car Pelleteri

Photo by John Stanley

Photo by Michael J. Dalton II

As the show progresses, Chen and Perrelli play with their title Don’t Look Back in a variety of interpretations that feels fun and ambitious. Ryan Foerster’s Hurricane is listed as a “unique chromogenic print with debris” – essentially a photo damaged by a storm, if we are to believe the title, creating a one-of-a-kind piece. Chen’s contribution to the show was also my personal favorite. His artist book In Between challenges the viewer in its placement of photos in the book where the central point of our attention is lost in the gutter creating a sense of frustration on the viewer’s part. It feels like Chen wants to share these moments with us, but is holding back hiding the best parts to keep for himself. Don’t Look Back also takes itself literally where we see our subjects from behind, including in Perrelli’s own work, or looking back as in Christina Thurston’s Untitled image of a young girl posing for the camera, trying to be present in the moment, but can’t help herself from turning back to see what’s been left behind.

Photo by Christina Thurston

 

 

Photo Book: “Road Ends in Water” by Eliot Dudik

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

 

I first came across Eliot Dudik’s incredible self-published photo book Road Ends in Water at Carte Blanche Gallery in San Francisco where both our books were featured in a show curated by Larissa Leclair of the Indie Photobook Library and Darius Himes of Radius Books.  And thanks to a suggestion by Jennifer Schwartz of Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, Crusade for Art, and Flash Powder Projects fame, we were recently reconnected to discuss our adventures in the world of first-time book publishing.

Having grown up on the outskirts of suburban Texas where the strip malls meet the farmlands and having spent my entire adult life living in New York City and Brooklyn, I tend to gravitate towards work dealing with the American landscape.  In this body of work, Eliot Dudik chronicles the spirit of the South Carolina Lowcountry: its swamps and dirt roads, its weathered porches and ramshackle churches, and the people that are as much a part of this landscape as the giant oak trees that tower over it all.  There is an ebb and flow to the sequence of images that rolls along like currents in the deep waters it portrays.  This book feels like a baptism.  I spoke with Eliot about the two years he spent working on this project while traveling from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia where he was a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design and his experiences turning this project into a beautiful book.

Bud, Russell Creek Road,  Photo by Eliot Dudik

Bud, Russell Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: First of all, it was such a pleasure sitting alone in our apartment today for about an hour slowly going through the book and then re-reading and re-looking a couple times.  It’s a really great meditation on a certain place and time and on large format photography as a medium.  Large format photography is a long tradition that is becoming increasingly difficult for photographers of our generation to afford or even have access to processing. To that end, I’m going to kind of get ahead of myself and ask: how much does the slow, somewhat antiquated nature of large format photography factor into your process documenting a place steeped in its own deep traditions and slower pace?  Was that something you thought about during the making of the work?

ED: The use of a view camera factors into my work quite extensively.  It is the effects of the view camera on the land, my subjects, and myself that dictates my using this type of camera.  Above all else, I enjoy the slow, contemplative and methodical steps associated with camera.  It helps me to remain within the landscape.  I see it as penetrating into a bubble, whereas I sometimes have difficulty piercing the surface tension with other formats.  When making portraits, I enjoy the interaction between the subject and the view camera.  They often have a look of pride and confidence in their expression and the way they carry themselves that is sometimes lost when looking down the barrel of an SLR.

 

SM: Road Ends in Water is such a great title.  I know it comes from the road sign you photographed that appears in the beginning of the book.  Did you take that photo knowing it would become the title or was that a decision you made once you were in the editing process?

ED: I took the photo for its symbolism and because I thought the sign was funny.  It didn’t become the title of the series until the final editing stages.  A professor and mentor, Jenny Kulah, suggested it as a title, and it made perfect sense.

Snuffy in Salkehatchie Swamp, Broxton Bridge Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Snuffy in Salkehatchie Swamp, Broxton Bridge Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: What I love about the title is the symbolism of “road” and “water” that appear throughout the book.  Both are metaphors for the cyclical nature of life and death.  All of the titles of the images refer to their location as being either a river or a road.  There’s a definite sense of a journey or being in between things.  It feels to me that this body of work operates on many levels: it is a documentary of a little seen pocket of America that is disappearing in the wake of government projects and economics, it is a metaphor for your life being in a somewhat transitional stage being a grad student during the project’s making and this new focus of your life in photography, and it has far broader themes of death and lost traditions.  That’s where my head is at, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

ED: You pretty much hit upon everything.  The landscape in this region of the country is renewed, flushed, and emptied by a multitude of rivers and tributaries heading toward the ocean.  The rivers bring folks together here as much as the roads do.  Generations of families have persevered here, living off of the land and rivers.

The Word, Ivenia Brown Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

The Word, Ivenia Brown Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: Your portraits have a lived-in quality.  Yet, having grown up in rural Pennsylvania, you are an outsider to this community.  How did you approach the subjects of your photographs?  ”Tom & Tommy, Prices Bridge Road” and “Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing” in particular feel like people you know or were mid-conversation with when you set up your camera.

ED: I had lived in the Lowcountry for about six years at the point that I made these images.  The landscape and the way of life had initially drawn me to the South.  I felt very comfortable with it, yet at the same time, in a constant state of awe.  Focusing on this series, I allowed myself the time and solitary peace to traverse the roads and waterways throughout this region for hours on end.  I often met folks by happenstance and we would often converse for long periods of time.  In the example of Tom and Tommy, I had passed Tom’s house three or four times very slowly, taking in the landscape, and eventually he stopped me and asked if he could help.  I explained who I was and what I was doing, and he invited me in to see his framed photo within a newspaper clipping about a local barbeque chicken cook-off.  We talked for a while with a couple of his friends, including Tommy, and they asked me to take a photo of them with their barbeque cooker and confederate flags, which I did.  We later made the image down on the dock that is in the book.

Rob and Ricky came flying into a river landing in their pick-up truck, spitting gravel everywhere, and came to a halt about 15 yards from where I was set up to make a photograph.  They jumped out of the truck and proceeded directly into the swamp near by.  I continued about my business, and soon looked up to see Ricky calling to me to let me know that they were going to fire off some guns.  I waved to him, packed up my things, and headed into the swamp.  They were shooting at tree stumps.  We talked for a little while, and they agreed to make the photo that’s in the book.

I sometimes had longer relationships with some of the folks I photographed, seeing them on different occasions as I drove through the area.

Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: The book contains 3 poems, one of which was written by your father.  What is your relation to the other 2 authors and why did you decide to include these throughout the book?

ED: Brianna Stello is a friend of mine from Charleston, South Carolina, who is also a photographer.  I had read some of her poetry years prior to making the book, and when the time came, I sent her some of my images and asked her if she would be interested in writing something to pair with them.

Dr. E. Moore Quinn wrote an essay that is included in the book.  She was one of my Anthropology professors when I was an undergraduate, and continues to be a great friend.  She had shared my work with her friend, poet Jerri Chaplin, and Jerri wrote a piece to accompany my photographs as well.

I found the writings to help expand the reading of the photographs.

 

SM: I definitely see the Alec Soth and Joel Sternfeld influences in your work.  They are big influences of mine as well.  What other artists were you looking at in relation to this specific body of work?  The South is so steeped in incredible writers and musicians- did that offer inspiration?

ED: William Christenberry, Richard Misrach, and Stephen Shore were a few other photographers I was interested in at the time, and still am.  I would have to say photobooks were my biggest inspiration during the time I was making this work.  All sorts of photobooks, I just gobble them up.  I am a big music fan as well, and my taste in music is much like my taste in photobooks, it runs the gamut.  Although it would have been a great time to draw inspiration from music while in the car, traveling through the landscape, but I chose to instead mostly listen to NPR and chew sunflower seeds.

Carew Rice Painting,  Back of Old Drive-In Screen, Highway 63, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Carew Rice Painting, Back of Old Drive-In Screen, Highway 63, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: Let’s talk about photo book publishing.  Roads Ends in Water is self-published, right?  And what influenced the decision to make a book?  Did you always envision this project as a book?

ED: Yes, it is self-published.  I find photobooks to provide a viewing experience much different from a gallery setting.  Often a photobook is enjoyed in a quiet, private, and comfortable space, giving the reader the capacity to fully engage with the work.  It also lends to the narrative nicely, which can help endow the work with new meaning.  I did always envision this work as a book, even before I knew how the work was going to turn out.  The self-publishing process was something I was researching during the entire time I was photographing the area.  Not only does the photobook provide a more intimate viewing experience, but it also helps me to get the work out to  a larger audience than I can solely through exhibition.

 

SM: Is Saga Publishing your own brand, like Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom?

ED: Yes, Saga Publishing is my own brand.  I came up with it at about two in the morning when I was trying to finish a mock-up in time to take to a photo conference.  It seemed fitting at the time.

Marietta & Jim, Wimbee Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Marietta & Jim, Wimbee Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: How did you raise the funds to publish 1000 copies?

ED: My Grandmother helped me to fund the printing of the book.  This is only one of many reasons the book is dedicated to her.  She is a great woman.

 

SM: In our past conversations, we talked a bit about the inevitable mishaps that seem to occur with every printing experience.  The advice is always to be on-press, but for me it was so expensive to make the book at all that the additional cost to travel to press wasn’t affordable.  What was your experience with printing with a press in Iceland?

ED: I wanted to travel to Iceland to see the book coming off the press more than anything.  I tried to come up with a way I could make it over there, but alas, I was in my last quarter of graduate school, and had several things to pull together in addition to the book.  Oddi, the Icelandic printing company I worked with, was terrific.  They sent me a physical proof to study, and after that was signed off on, they then sent me a digital proof just to make sure everything was laid out and ordered the way it was supposed to be.  Typically, they would send two physical proofs, but because of my time restraints, they sent one physical, and one digital.  They sent me some advanced copies in time for my book release and thesis exhibition, and the rest showed up on a pallet a few weeks later.  They have a representative here in the States that helps to translate the job to the printing house in Iceland.  Everything went smoothly.

Rouse, Bennetts Point Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Rouse, Bennetts Point Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: We’re both adjunct photo professors.  I remember being an undergrad photo students and always wishing there was more real-world advice for how to get your foot in the door in any area of the photo world.  It’s the same thing I hear from my students now, which I make a point of devoting at least a whole class to answering those kinds of questions.  What is the best advice you give your students?

ED: I treat all of my students as artists, and hold them to the same expectations they will encounter after graduating.  I discuss marketing strategies with them in every class.  I encourage, and sometimes require submissions to publications, calls for entry, juried and solo exhibitions, internships and apprenticeships.  Most importantly, in my opinion, I encourage them to, and mentor them through attending events and conferences like the Society for Photographic Education.  I find these kinds of events to be invaluable for emerging artists for a number of reasons, but especially for the networking possibilities.  I think we had 12 students or so attend the SPE conference in Chicago last year, and I think they would agree that the experience was remarkable.

 

SM: What are you working on now and do you see it as a continuation of or departure from the themes or methods of working that you established for yourself in Road Ends in Water?

ED: I recently began working on a new project that explores the American Civil War, especially as it exists in our consciousness today.  Fortunately, this work is coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  There are a few different components to this project so far.  I am creating landscapes of battlefields, both well known and obscure, with an 8×20 inch view camera.  However, instead of using black and white film within this camera, I am using two sheets of color 8×10 inch film.  This creates a separation in the image, which I am quite fond of, and lends to all sorts of symbolism.  I am also traveling to reenactments to capture the essence of war among some of these battlefields.  Additionally, I have begun the portrait component of this project this past weekend at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I am very excited about these.  They are quite unique in their construction, and I think they will lend nicely toward my interests in the cyclical nature of repeatedly reproducing such a bloody war.  I am also collecting sounds as I move through these landscapes and episodes that will permeate the photographs.

I would think this new project is somewhat of a departure from Road Ends in Water in technique and construction, but in many ways its also a continuation.  I think it retains the sense of a journey, an investigation into life, death, conflict, and varying perspectives on an important subject.  Although the equipment I am currently using to interact with the landscape is different, I am still working by the same principals: see, feel, think, create.

 

Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 2013, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 2013, Photo by Eliot Dudik

SM: And lastly, what’s your ideal summer day?

ED: Ideally:  Air conditioning, coffee, images, music, ham and cheese on rye, loved one/s, cards or darts.

 

To purchase a copy of “Road Ends in Water” please visit http://eliotdudik.com/ and click on “Book.”

In Tribute: Sarah Charlesworth (1947-2013)

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
Photo by Matthew C. Lange and Nick Shepard

Photo by Matthew C. Lange and Nick Shepard

Sarah Charlesworth left us a week ago today. I didn’t plan on beginning my run as CCNY’s guest blogger on such an unexpectedly sad note, but here we are. I guess I should start by saying that I had the great honor of having Sarah as my thesis crit teacher at SVA’s MFA Photography, Video, & Related Media program from Fall 2010 till graduation in May 2011. Over the past seven days, I’ve shared a lot of somber and loving texts with my fellow crit members and read every tribute to Ms. Charlesworth that I can find online. These articles tell of Sarah’s amazing accomplishments as an artist and speak of her as a loving mom and good friend. What also get mentioned, but not nearly given as much attention as I think it deserves, is Sarah’s role as a teacher and mentor and her devotion to her students. Matthew C. Lange, my friend and former classmate and Sarah’s assistant, said it best: “I think that the influence she had on younger artists was not only a large part of the legacy she always wanted to leave behind, but also an important part of her practice.”

As a teacher, Sarah had a reputation among the students for being tough, and she was. Like a mama bird in a pencil skirt that pushed her babies out of the nest whether they thought they were ready or not. The work being made in our class was all over the map, but somehow she was able to lead us each down our own path. Before grad school, I had trouble finishing projects. I was a terrible editor of my own work. While working in Sarah’s class on my project that would become “May the Road Rise to Meet You,” Sarah once met privately with me and we laid out over 250 small 3×5” photos along the edge 4 big tables. She circled the table a few times, pushing certain photos up into the center of the table, while I followed behind her arguing for certain images that didn’t make the cut. It took us over an hour, but eventually we had a final edit and sequence for the book. Watching her edit and seeing my project come together through her eyes taught me how to tell a story through sequencing. Then, she sat with me helping me tape them together and fold them like an accordion while explaining that she saw this project wherein I followed my dad on his travels as a telephone pole salesman as “eulogizing and celebrating something.” That phrase struck me so much that I wrote it down. I’m looking at it in my notebook now. Boy, she was good. I could go on with more stories, but I’d like to open up the discussion. If you are a former student of Sarah Charlesworth and have something to share, your comments and stories are welcome.

Thank you, Sarah, for giving me and all your students something to eulogize and celebrate.

HISTORY IS NOT THE PAST

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

For Nona Faustine the restitution of her sense of wholeness as an African American woman and artist manifests in the guise of a restoration of the past, emphasis on guise.  Although we see her marching up the steps of City Hall in Manhattan with nothing on but her white Sunday shoes and a pair of shackles in her left hand…she is not really trying to restore anything. It took me a while to realize it.

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Her on-going photography and installation project Reconstructions is precisely that – reconstructions that attempt to replace something that was lost in the history of Blacks in America.  This should not be confused with an attempt to relive the past through reenactment. Faustine’s images are more like markers that indicate a place, an institution, an event or a person so that with her presence on that spot she does not merely remember them for the sake of remembering, she rewrites a new history for them. There on the steps of City Hall’s Renaissance Revival facade that abuts a slave burial ground or standing on her soap box at the intersection of Water and Wall Streets where a market once trafficked in humans, she is the fearless daughter of them all, the new Venus of Willendorf reborn to reconstruct a history, the ultimate act of fecundity.

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Faustine easily acknowledges the impossibility of getting at what is essential with this task she has set for herself, because to reconstruct a history is an altogether different action than to restore one. Hers is not an attempt to historicize the present but to re-write the past. She did the research, discovered who bought and sold black slaves in colonial New York, and where, and how they were transported in and out of the city. But there is no Aushwitz or Treblinka for the victims of slavery in America despite the common knowledge that an estimated 10-12 million Africans died in the Middle Passage alone, and countless others succumbed to starvation, physical abuse and disease once on these shores. In a way the images function as memorials that she makes herself, one at a time, with her body, the naked truth of its blackness braced against a cold city, reconstructing a narrative where the enslaved has dignity and is not afraid.

http://nonafaustine.virb.com

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE POSITION OF THE SUBJECT

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

In Roberto Vietri’s ongoing project, Trabalho, there is a distinctive visual vocabulary in action that is easy to recognize but vague in its message – and I like that. It is not just that individual images are “open-ended” – the project itself is porous. He photographs marks and traces just as fastidiously as places and spaces with the potential to be marked, to have a trace put upon them. Some images are only straight-forwardly documented where in others he has ‘intervened’ with an action to alter the position of the subject – and consequently, how we will see it. In other cases he is the agent of the mark on the surface of the photographic print itself. It becomes difficult to know which is which except with time and very careful looking – which might be precisely the point. Vietri wants us to know and not know what we are seeing, to question what is true and which is, well, less true. He wants to make us aware of the act of looking and how we make meaning – especially when that moment occurs when the image shifts from document to arena for a mark. Like a seamless conversation, each functions as a springboard to the next, and back to a previous one.

 

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http://www.robertovietri.com 

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE ORIGINAL CHAOS

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

It is rare to meet an artist with so much talent in so many mediums as Gloria Duque, whose extreme modesty and humility is equally impressive. She is just as comfortable working with you-name-it, a camera, paint, scratchboard, bronze sculpture, or even what any of us might consider trash  - all to satisfy a workaholic drive to interpret her world.  And what an interesting world it is, where permanence feels fragile, and impermanence is palpable, where clouds drop down from the sky heavy as sack of laundry and dollar bills appear to have been dipped in technicolor rainbows. She lives and works in a small apartment in Spanish Harlem in what can only be described as a state of original chaos where only the process of creation matters and materializes endlessly. Obessive, check. Cumpulsive, check.  Talented, check. I have always been fascinated by artistic practice, artists’ studios and the process that feeds artistic hunger.  Duque does not disappoint.  When we first met she mentioned that she can only have one guest at a time in her apartment, so long as one of the two remains standing. I was intrigued.  The explanation went on to include a list of materials covering every surface of her apartment: a democracy of things like…egg shells, branches, chop sticks, corks, wires, rubber bands, candy foil, beans, seeds, pods, feathers, dried orange peels, and lot of completed art works stacked everywhere… I thought she was joking, or at least exaggerating. She wasn’t.  Her apartment is itself an amazing work of art, impossible to take in, overwhelming and yet calming somehow. I sat down (actually we both stood) with her recently to discuss the nature of her work.
Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

What is your education/training in?

My training is in architecture and product design.  As per my training, my professors encouraged my unique language of observations and motivated me to think beyond the parameters of any dialogue. Understanding the materials one chooses to work with is the most important thing but not just their potentiality but their ability to fail.  I was challenged by my tutors to solve riddles, to come up with design answers to almost impossible statements (enunciados), to materialize ideas like The House of the South Wind, to be open to interpretation without representation.  During my years in architecture school, I discovered that my hands became more useful tools for expressing ideas than words had previously been.  Anything I could perform with them was a magical transformation of ideas into objects… free or mechanical drawing, model making, ceramics, watercolor and later painting and illustration.

What role does photography play in your artistic practice?

Photography is the most magical aspect of my work, the convergence point where ideas begin to develop.  Taking a picture of something in the world that corresponds to a feeling or notion that is still embryonic is the best way for me to move forward with that idea.  It is the first step in what might be a long series of steps of process leading to a finished artwork. The camera was my first creative tool of choice to see the world differently. I established my first creative dialogue with this medium while studying architecture. It became a pivotal way to create new interpretations and points of view and at the same time it helped me to keep records and tell my stories, for the safekeeping of my history and memory as many others had done before me. Photography, by its very nature is an invitation to explore the world beyond the common and make fluid our perceptions. Digital has also made it possible for me to indulge even more with its instantaneity. I freeze time, virtually as time is/was, and yet I continue the exercise of observation and as images accumulate the storytelling begins, a destiny I seem to have chosen, I relate it, I take it, I retrieve it … later I transform those conversations mediated by the camera into objects, another translation.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Cloud Project"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Cloud Project”

From the Series "Cloud Project" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Cloud Project” by Gloria Duque

What is your preferred medium?

My preferred medium is objects, so long as they are palpable with my eyes or my skin, perhaps heard or smelled in connection to their visual presentations. To me, they exist to be placed, misplaced, read … or ignored. Taken in account or not, objects simultaneously offer a proposal of possibility and the challenge of three-dimensionalizing them. This challenge has to do with meaning, with reference. Their purpose is changeable, transmutable. There is an unexpected beauty in each of them and in its relationship with its environment, its context.  There are an infinite number of possibilities for the untold significance and impressiveness of each of them. We choose one of their possibilities to transform them into storytellers, messengers of some sort … to provoke a reaction, identify a purpose… a catalyst… a trigger, short or long-lived, who knows. At this point, each object has its own destiny. Objects of desire, I call them. 2D, 3D, B & W, color, palpable by one, two or all of your senses; objects in any sense of the word … as per in the goal to be achieved too … where the object, besides of being what it is, has a purpose … In doing so, something that has no movement of its own, no mind, obtains an intention, it has an objective, a mission. It acquires an imperceptible movement to the eyes and transcendence in other levels. It becomes philosophical in some way.  In my eyes it separates itself from interpretation, individual feelings and imaginings; it becomes a proposer. I call that OBJECTIVITY and it all begins with ideas nascent in the process of image capture.

How many projects are you currently working on?

Do you mean at the actual moment?  Time behaves oddly in my studio. Well, besides designing a living space for some friends, there are a few projects I play with constantly and intermittently. Their scale and the time I can dedicate to them are determined by their gravitational pull, my choice, and the emotions seeking for a place in which to be invested. The smaller projects are currently the most visited.  They are smaller in scale, but not vastness (cloud project, cows, bodies and constellations, mas allá, after dark, joy and despair, I had it, every thing talks to me, twos & ones). The larger projects, the ones that require more of my full attention, efforts and dedication include: architecture of dreams, canvases, Explorations, grafted graffiti, quilts of guilt, ugly is beautiful, filtered visions, seven, güevonadas and the philosophical component of I had it. Most of my series intersect with one another, or overlap at least, or branches out of each other and back together. I can say all my work is part of a web, a fabric, invisible strings in the middle of which I reside.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Bodies and Constellations"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Bodies and Constellations”

From the Series "Bodies and Constellations" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Bodies and Constellations” by Gloria Duque

What is your relationship to the materials you use?

I will say extreme. There is no one thing I use that I am not in a deep relationship with. I get immersed into perceptual and verbal conversations with each material I use. We become extensions of each other, and in so doing, we both become storytellers, simultaneously both being the witnesses and that which is witnessed.  We become timeless and time makers, meaning that we fuse past, present and future in one existence were the first two components have more and stronger identifiable characteristics than its unpredictable companion.  No material that I encounter is exempt from being a candidate for use in art.  And I mean anything.  I have many collections of things: rubber bands of every shape, color and size, used tea bags, tangerine peels carved into figural shapes, all kind of metallic wrappers rolled into balls, the list is endless… I rescue, recycle and reuse a lot in my practice.

From the series "Twos & Ones"  by Gloria Duque

From the series “Twos & Ones” by Gloria Duque

How does your home as your studio influence your practice?

My home as my studio… I certainly can say that when I make art I feel at home. Whereas I like austerity, cleanliness and the elegance of minimalism – which currently shows more in my designs and photography, I also love abundance and the generosity of the infinite possibilities of interpretation. I could easily live with both, but the city imposes on me one condition: limited space. I could say, I live within the complexity of my thought process and ideas. Of course, they coexist in harmony and with a structural order inherited from my architectural and design practices and processes … I have my own galaxy, perhaps a complete universe of my own to coexist with.

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

TABLEAU VIVANT, PETIT MORT

Monday, May 13th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

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Ali Van enters first, slides her shoes off and glides onto the carpet.  She sits like a geisha, legs to the side crossed at the ankles, back perfectly erect.  There is something utterly feminine in her body language, beguiling in both senses of the word and though she may appear demure, she is in total control.  This is her orgasm after all.  Hers to do with as she pleases.

Three men appear from different directions and also approach the large square of gray carpet that dominates the 3rd floor space at the Fisher-Landau Center for Art where Van has positioned herself. She holds an i-something in her hand from which a splitter dangles with three bobbing receptors. The men also remove their shoes and sit as if in a dojo, seiza style. Despite the strong sense of ceremony, and the fact that we the spectators are here to experience a performance, nothing feels overt.  The lights do not dim, but they feel as though they did, no more or less noise permeates the space as the foursome sit to face each other, but the present silence becomes more distinct. These are the elusive factors that matter to Van, a 2013 MFA candidate at Columbia University, near-invisible markers of time that she, with her subtle curating of objects, and now performance, weaves into highly dispassionate deeply personal work.

The men unravel earphones and each in turn inserts the male prong into one of the female receptacles.  They close their eyes and she looks intently at each of them, her acolytes who have dutifully come for her today.  Van presses play and manipulates the volume on her device and the men are seen to listen, wrinkles between closed eyes. A long and narrow groove in one, a short deeper trench in another, a gentle pulling inward of the eyes in the third.  Though we can assume they are listening to the same sounds, each man appears to respond differently to what he hears by his outward expressions.  It happens slowly, and builds on itself.  They are climbing the same ladder, they help each other, though they don’t seem aware of it.  One man is all breath, shallow and superficial. The next is a low moan, a growl that rumbles in the chest.  The third is higher pitched ecstatic releases. Together this chorus performs a unique rendition of what can only be the complex aural orchestrations of the female orgasm.  But not just any, it is hers, the action, the reaction and the reenactment. Possibly her most personal experience repackaged as a product for consumption.

From one vantage point Van has an open computer on a mid-century desk playing a clearly dated video of a brain surgery.  When I  first saw the video the week before this performance I thought it was a document of a wartime operating theater.  It seemed so improvised and shoddy.  Later I learned it was her father’s footage, who, wanting to see the operation for himself was only able to experience it when mediated by the camera.  Today it waxed sexual. The wet, bloody sulci of the brain being probed gently by anonymous hands whilst in the room a trio of breathy moans burst like smoke-filled bubbles.  As in most of Van’s art, the tidy compartmentalization of individual elements create untidy relationships in her tableau, discordant notes that when experienced together somehow create an unforeseeable 3rd thing.

This reenactment of her onanistic behavior slowly becomes unhinged somewhere between a science experiment and a defiant stance against male domination as the pitch slouches toward release.  It is a petit mort syncopated both in duration and stress to better understand what it is not rather than what it is. Likewise, the fragments of other objects mostly in the periphery of the rug speak to the partiality of any experience, whether intentionally mediated or not. What tooth is this?  Is it a human incisor or that of a wild animal?  It bothers me to not know. The bag of what I think are desiccated figs, might be tangerines. A mound of lint from a dryer with a streak of pink in it begs to reveal something.  A framed image of a foggy field is the 25-year-old blotter from her father’s desk.  Every object asks a question, a single compulsive question.  There are many objects, and if you let them they will haunt you.  For a moment, however, they are held at bay, as most mundane matters are when we succumb to corporeal needs.

After reaching a pitch, a height, a precarious angle from which one can only fall, the breaths, growls and moans come together again in silence.  The men emerge from behind shutters, looking guilty despite their best efforts; is that a self-congratulatory grin?  We all smile, there is relief in the air. Almost in ostensible synchrony the men unplug and wind their now flaccid wires back into tidy little squares.  Van stands and proceeds to the edge of the carpet where she puts her shoes back on and walks away.  The men follow her example.  We are left to our own devices.

http://www.alexandravan.com/AliVanStudio/Ali_Van.html

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

BEING AND TIME

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

Without the help of a plot but with the rhythmic coaxing of a 12-string guitar, the one hour and one minute film “Street” by James Nares is absolutely hypnotic. Like Christian Marclay’s art-world sensation last year, (“The Clock”) “Street” has an addictive quality about it that makes you question the notion of time at a fundamental experiential level. With the former, one felt the anticipation of moving forward in time while engaged in the present moment’s deciphering of the rapid succession of filmic and cultural references of the past. In the latter, however, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 27, one is mesmerized by the uncanny qualities of New York City’s street life when suspended somewhere between still and moving images  where being and time collide to disrupt the present. In “Street” the minute details of life in the public sphere are able to take center stage as impressive open-ended arias in an epic opera of expressions, movement and vibrations. What normally escapes us unnoticed suddenly acquires magical qualities that seduce us with ease into a world that is at once familiar and alien. The ostensible simplicity of the premise (recording street scenes from a slowly moving car) produces a disproportionate amount of poetic results. It does what language cannot – allowing us a sensation of floating, the suspension of both time and the laws that govern the motion of objects in space, while making us witness to unexpected beauty.

The tradition of documenting street life has a long history in both photography and film and the deployment of a new technology for an artistic endeavor often yields an off-spring of surprising uncanniness. It has long been the task of the artist to reveal what is not known or unknowable in general, but more so when the subject matter is of quotidian life on the streets of the metropolis. Chantal Akerman’s “D’Est” and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Moving Camera” especially come to mind. In Nares’ hands, however, the final result of a high-definition slow-motion camera (so slow that at times the only movement appears to be from the apparatus itself) turns the pedestrian world of pedestrians into a meditation on humanity suspended in fragments of time that can only be described as sublime. But the work also speaks to the illusory quality of time itself, for although we might feel freed from its constraints momentarily, it is an invisible vise that tightens around us. With more time to see what might otherwise be missed we have even more information to sort through, most of which can no longer be easily categorized as we are untethered from meaning. Time dutifully slips through our fingers with same same ease as always but with the added effect of revealing some of its secrets. The film, like a mirroring mise-en-abyme, tunnels ever deeper away from the present the longer we look, and thus our own sense of “real time” is displaced. Moments that unfold with such graceful care are layered with multiple meanings and though we may search for their origin or terminus where we think we might understand what we are seeing, it usually eludes us as we are distracted with the rarefied truth of actuality. An expression that starts off like a grimace ends up in a smile, a cigarette flying through the air is less a moment about littering and more a meditation on gravity. The crumpled posture of a woman elicits sympathy until we notice she is trying to take a picture and is merely holding the camera in an awkward position. Rain drops harden into diamonds before bouncing off umbrellas, bejeweling headlights. An ordinary pigeon endowed with the majesty of an eagle maneuvers in order to land. Lights everywhere pulsate with the universal Qi.

Everything is authentic in this state of expanding time. Even when the camera is acknowledged by the subject, the fourth wall does not crumble. On the contrary, it is a revelation of authenticity when a vibration of strength penetrates us with eye-contact. A direct look is all-at-once dangerous, playful, unnerving and spiritual. We are privy to a coded conversation at a level we forget we are capable of understanding. If for no other reason I would sit through the film again to experience those moments of contact with these strangers, not to mention the elegant upward floating sparrows next to a sign that reads “play here” or the seemingly improbable physics of bipedal locomotion or the elegant ripples of the breeze on a young woman’s dress. To sense the joy that can be derived from the smallest expression, the tiniest gesture, the subtlest vibration in a democracy of meaning is a special achievement in a work of art. We are reminded that everything arises in relation to everything else.

In “Street” people stand on corners like a Greek chorus – each face the unique mask of an individual describing a state of universal experience. Sadly I was forced to draw comparisons with the myriad street scenes of Boston we have recently also been exposed to. Whereas the notion of the interconnectedness of humanity was already present in this work, it became inescapable that the sinister and dangerous qualities of the social sphere are also embedded in Nares’ work. And to that I can only say that the revelatory moments feel all the more precious when reminded of the fragility of the fabric that binds it all together.

The only thing I knew about James Nares prior to seeing “Street” was his large-brush paintings, often achieved with a single stroke while he is suspended by a harness above the canvas cirque-du-soleil style. The sense of ease and floating translates directly from his method of marking the canvas to a dynamic suspension of pigment that is both cascading and frozen. The theme of a suspension of movement, and thus time, may or may not be an intentional thread between these disparate works, but it certainly appears so in this 61 minute film – 60 minutes plus one more, spilling over and out of the neat container of time.

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/street

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www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

THE FEELING OF PRESENCE, MAYBE

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

Okay. So we all know by now that images cannot be trusted. Since Plato, the image (mimesis), indeed representation itself, has been associated with deception. It is certainly true that images today cannot be trusted to be accurate versions of what is real or represented – ‘likeness’ opting for the approximation clause inherent in the definition of image-making. And once tampered with and altered, these representations are more than twice removed from what it represents. And though we are generally savvy enough to discern how far from real images are in the spectrum of truth, in the age of photoshop and digital reproducibility, our suspicions are subordinated to the vast volume of images, gifs and videos with which we are confronted daily. Today, whatever might still be considered an emphatic expression of fact re-presented in visual terms floats in our collective willing suspension of disbelief. We grow unaccustomed to believing our eyes – even in the presence of the real, in real time…

On Saturday March 23rd I encountered an art work entitled “The Maybe” at MoMA. What I encountered, actually, was the crowd that had encountered the art work. Second order observation. Immediately past the entrance where the ticket-takers scan you in, in the most transitional space in the building, an unmoving crowd had surrounded an object, a thing, a glass case on a metal stand. It was tall enough for viewers to easily peer into it. it contained a simple pallet, a pillow, a glass water decanter with a drinking glass top, a pair of eyeglasses and a presumably sleeping Tilda Swinton. The wall tag read: “The Maybe, 1995/2013, Living Artist, Glass, Steel, Mattress, Pillow, Linen, Water and Spectacles.”

Like most of those who had gathered to see the contents of the glass box, I did not expect to find a living person, much less the enigmatic, androgynous beauty that is Swinton. In fact, at first my brain did this thing, a kind of processing hiccup, a glitch between the eyes and the brain. I saw the form of a person to be sure, from the back at first, so still that I was convinced it was a very realistically rendered figure. From the front, however, where most people chose to stand, what I thought I was seeing and what I was in fact seeing were separated by a gap wide enough to make me feel light-headed. Why on earth would a sleeping person be inside a glass box that has no clear way to get in or out, and be on display in the most awkward location thinkable? I stood still, as one does at the scene of an accident, to see something horrible, the confirmation that your senses are in revolt. The murmurings of the crowd faded away as my reptilian brain scanned the body for signs of life. She was dressed gender-neutral, neither too cool, or dated or brand-specific – in a loose summer linen shirt of faded baby blue, sensible sneakers, and modestly proportioned jeans. From most angles you could not tell if it was a man or woman. I looked to her abdomen, shying away from her face which was so close (and too real?) that it made me feel uncomfortable, like a voyeur, or worse. Her breathing was so shallow, that I had to look elsewhere for proof, because I was still doubting what I was seeing, mistrusting my eyes to tell me some truth. Swinton was asking me to be present. To watch her ‘perform’ sleeping. To be accountable for my presence. To take stock of nuance despite the fog of doubt, despite the carnivalesque din. Finally with patience I saw her eyes move inside their hiding place. She was dreaming. Now I push the maybe aside and I see she is alive, not a waxen figure or an image of deceptive realness. Now I see something that is true and must take in the consequences of what I know. Contrived or not, this is a kind of intimacy.

A torrent of unanswerable questions inundates me. How, and why, but also really how? Seriously, and the glass, no way in or out… Why should I ever need to be so close to her luminescent pale face, lightly reflective with the oiliness of the unadorned, unattended visage of sleep? From the crowd I hear, “I saw her fingers move.” Indeed they did twitch. It was such a tiny gesture, so small and concise, easy to miss, and yet there we were, about fifty of us, slowing ourselves down long enough to notice it, to see it and to know what it means, but not to know what it means to see it.

I am the voyeur. I am a man and I am watching her sleep, at her most vulnerable. I feel implicated in the male gaze. She has deferred her power and it unsettles me, dislodging violent thoughts. The metal stand feels too tall to be stable, the glass too transparent to be unbreakable. I want to beat on the glass and break her out. There is an implied panic at looking at a constrained person, because despite the ostensible serenity I suddenly realize her tranquil expression is portentous of a disturbance. So much can go wrong. The sleeping beauty box becomes a prison cell. I notice she has no belt. I feel the crowd inching forward, muttering, sniggering, disdainful. I smell someone’s sour breath and awaken as if from the hypnosis of the maybe-maybe-not-pendulum that momentarily dispossessed me of myself. I am suddenly afraid of the crowd, afraid for her safety. I don’t want her to awaken afraid, confused, her own consciousness hiccuping its way into focus. I want her to open her eyes, look right at me to acknowledge that I am her hero and close them so quickly we may all doubt what we saw.

I am also thinking… I have trouble sleeping, falling asleep, staying asleep. Too much light, not enough air circulating, too hot too cold, too restrained, not cozy enough – all these things awaken me. So it is no wonder that I marvel at Swinton’s uninterrupted REM and wonder if ‘maybe’ she took a little something. Maybe not, but c’mon – MAYBE.

This change of tone reminds me of what most of the reactions to Swinton at MoMA were like out in the twittering, texting, internetting world. Jerry Saltz seemed to have a meltdown on vulture.com and joked that celebrity art is like a crystal meth addiction to the museum, and that when it is not too busy perpetuating the guru status of some (read Marina Abromovich) it was turning itself into a circus. Why “The Maybe” was the tipping point for his disdain, only Malcom Gladwell may know. Snoozefest-cum-spectacle pretty much sums up his response. But it is unfair to gloss over it with such nonchalance even from a self-described sourpuss. At least the work was an opportunity for him to frame his contempt for the direction museums are moving in; and so the performance suddenly became institutional critique, among other things. Most other reports used puns to summarize Swinton. Sleeping on the Job. The Art of Napping. Strangest Celeb Hobby. Etc. And a few mentions of Sleeping Beauty.

Interestingly, one of constraints for this performance is that it is not scheduled into MOMA’s ever-growing dance card. The element of surprise is inherent to the piece. If she is Sleeping Beauty, she is not waiting for the prince to appear unannounced. Like in Anne Sexton’s “Transformations” the fairytale is upended. This is no ordinary Briar Rose. And not only can one not plan to see the work, as one could for “The Artist is Present” – it migrates within the museum interacting with other artworks. These “rules” literally unplug the work from any predictability, even of meaning. Maybe the work is a reminder to look to see, to know, to think, to trust yourself to be the author of meaning in the present as you experience it. Maybe the work is not even about Tilda Swinton at all, it just happens to be by her. Barthes would be pleased.

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

Monday, April 1st, 2013

IMG_4183 photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

A mercurial poet of visual splendors, Pierre Le Hors challenges the ways in which pictures exist. Photographing transient beauty and anchoring it concretely in this world though the creation of carefully considered objects, Le Hors explores space.

“Photography lets me pay attention to the outward appearance of objects, to the surface of my surroundings. With photos you can isolate a little part of the world, saving it for later consideration. I find that you can discover a lot about the world by starting from its surface, and working backwards from there.”

 

LeHors_SeriesII_PDF-1 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-2 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-3 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-4 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-5 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-6 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-7 PLH_selected_work_2011-2013-9 Last month Dashwood Books released a new publication of Le Hors’ photographs entitled “Byways and Through Lines”. This object is halfway between a zine and a full-fledged book, and it contains a very personal alternative to the standard series of photos. The images are widely varied, drawings and paint marks are presented alongside pictures made using a scanner interspersed with more traditionally straight photography. The connections between images are poetically nonlinear, barely tangential, often bisecting each other and twisting together then separating. The flow of “Byways and Through Lines” is more like a cloud, an etherlike Chutes and Ladders for the eyes mind and heart. Diagrammed, I imagine connections between the images would looks very much like Le Hors’ photographs. The images are very warm and human, alternately emphasizing surface and depth, rich with visual play. “I usually don’t shoot with a very clear idea of where the images will end up,” Le Hors admits. “I tend to think about my pictures as pretty fluid things. Most of the images in Byways were initially unrelated. Some came from different projects, others were simply photos taken in a casual way, out of observation. In editing and laying out the book, I looked for several thematic “threads” to run throughout, parallel to each other. They criss-cross in certain places, and the title alludes to that. In a quite literal way, the book binds them and creates a third context.”

David Strettell, owner of Dashwood books, published “Byways and Through Lines”  as part of the second year of the “Dashwood Book Series”.  Other artists represented in this second volume of the series include Glen Luchford and Nigel Shafran, as well as a collaboration with Robert Mapplethorpe’s foundation which features unseen early collages and assemblages with an introduction by Patti Smith. “The idea behind the whole series is to introduce contemporary photographers and reintroduce largely unknown work from the past to a contemporary audience serving as a reflection of Dashwood’s own curatorial theme,” explains Strettell. “Variety is the key in terms of matching fashion with documentary with conceptual art as well as established figures with relatively unknown talents.  What I recognized in Pierre’s working practice that it was linked very much to books and publishing.  He had previously published a beautifully conceived project with Hassla, Firework Studies and was publishing experimental zines under the name NOWORK (with Tuomas Korpijaakko).”

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“Firework Studies” is one of the most elegant photographic objects I have ever encountered. It’s more of a movie than a monograph, the edges silver leafed into a perfect block and every surface of the book covered full bleed in beautifully tonal black and white photograph. The book is sculpture, it reads back and forth and over and around, romancing the viewer with exploding light tendrils leaking over black ground in atomically generated paintings.

Le Hors makes things. In the time of tumblr where photographs increasingly loose connection to their origin there is a tendency for photographs to become weightless, images floating through space unhindered by a physical object. There is a high level of craft in Le Hors’ work, an attention to how it can be interacted with physically from a human perspective. This consideration of the encounter is evident in both sequential publications like zines and books and in the way Le Hors presents still photographs as prints. There is generally an emphasis on surface, on the photographic object. But not always. Always the vaporous quality of these photographs resists becoming solid.

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Untitled (Alikeness) 

17 C-prints mounted to aluminum

Installation views from “Alikeness” Solo exhibition Ed. Varie, New York, NY January 2011

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 Leah Beeferman / Pierre Le Hors Two-person exhibiton PACS Gallery, Brooklyn September 2011

“I think there is a lot to be said for being literal, or plain spoken. I also think of abstraction as being literal, one-to-one: what you see is what you get.”

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Le Hors is the current recipient of CCNY’s darkroom residency, and he’s making exciting new pictures. As part of the residency an exhibition of the work that eventually results will be presented at CCNY sometime next year. This will surely be something to see as Le Hors’ ideas of what could happen in his art seem like the galaxy to be constantly expanding, spiraling outward and inward, through space and time. Stay tuned.

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-Matte Magazine for CCNY

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