Ari Marcopoulos: Wherever You Go @Marlborough Chelsea

JTF (just the facts): A total of 10 large scale black and white photographs and 1 video projection, framed in white and unmatted, and hung in the main gallery space and the entry area. All of the prints are pigment prints, most on rice paper. 3 of the 89×60 works are unique, while 1 is available in an edition of 3+2AP. The other 6 photographs are 55×36 (or reverse), in editions of 3+2AP. All of the photographs are dated 2012. The digital video is 65 minutes long, in an edition of 5+2AP. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Ari Marcopoulos’ photographs have an imperfect, grainy roughness that gives his work a sense of unadorned, rebellious authenticity. Taken with a simple point and shoot camera and often decorated with the built-in digital time stamp, his snapshots are then further degraded by multiple layers of printing, not unlike a zine photocopying process, resulting in images that are both starkly straightforward and surprisingly soft given their textural grittiness.

Three large black prints dominate this show, the multiple layers of printing making them nearly abstract. While a shadowy form emerges from one and white stripes slip along the sides of the other two, the lush surface texture of the prints is what is unusual; the content has become illegible, allowing the process to become the subject.

The rest of the photographs inhabit a dirty middle grey, where the shoulders and fingers of young men are covered with grime, and graffiti (or its muted, painted over absence) lingers nearby. Two images of the massive body of New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler are the most striking of this group, his muscled shoulders and narrow waist creating an exaggerated triangular form when seen from behind. In the second image, Chandler rears back pulling up his black t-shirt to show a paragraph of inspirational text tattooed along his right side. Both photographs are powerfully sculptural, while still retaining Marcopoulos’ smudged underground realism.

While not every one of these images resonated with me, I was most interested by the recurring idea of an alternate photographic aesthetic, where traditional crispness and clarity have been traded for something purposefully rougher and less controlled. Marcopoulos’ photocopy look reminded me of Moriyama and the Provoke era Japanese photographers, as applied to facets of contemporary American subculture. His visual approach matches his chosen subject matter well, capturing its truths and spirit without cleaning them up.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The unique 89×60 prints are $18000 each. The editioned 89×60 print of Tyson Chandler is $15000. The smaller 55×36 prints are $8500 each. Marcopoulos’ work has not yet become consistently available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

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