JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 photographs, alternately framed in silver/white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the long single room gallery space. All of the works are lacquered pigment prints, made between 2011 and 2013. Physical dimensions are either 24×30, 32×40, or 43×53; the smallest size is available in an edition of 7, while the two larger sizes are available in editions of 5. This is the photographer’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Adam Katseff’s landscapes are so black that they feel like having walked into a dark room and needing to wait for your eyes to adjust. But with patience, elemental forms emerge from the blackness, echoes of scenes that are at once familiar and otherworldly. Their silence is immersive, and they offer a sense of being drawn into an enveloping presence.
In terms of subject matter and composition, Katseff’s landscapes could have come straight out of the 19th century. Towering images of Bridalveil Falls and Cathedral Rock in Yosemite and broad views of the Susquehanna River and the fields of Gettysburg have all been framed in the manner of Watkins or Muybridge, with an eye for the drama found in the sweep of the land. But it is the artist’s control of the light that gives these moody scenes their punch. Their darkness requires getting up close, to interact with the photographs and examine their surprisingly lush and crisp details. Whether depicting a snow covered mountain range or the rocky edge of a lake, the views are elusive, like memories that move from fuzziness to extreme clarity in the magical blink of an eye.
This idea of time and memory is reexamined in a second set of works that are executed in the opposite tonality of bright white. In these works, interior spaces have been pared down to geometric planes and flat shapes, the chapel at Yosemite or Frederick Church’s studio reduced to their simplest lines, like James Casebere constructions taken to their limit. What has been remembered is the ghostly architecture of the space, the rest of the details discarded or lost. Other works in the show (time elapsed exposures of burning flames and satellite trails in the sky) add yet another refrain of passing time and fleeting memory.
What I like most about Katseff’s landscapes is their reticence, their unwillingness to offer themselves up instantly. That slowness is unexpected, and our increased attention is rewarded by better than we had remembered grandeur.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows, based on size: 24×30 at $3000 each, 32×40 at $4000 each, and 43×53 at $6000 each. Since this show is Katseff’s first New York solo, it should come as no surprise that his work has not yet reached the secondary markets; as such, gallery retail remains the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.