JTF (just the facts): A total of 6 sculptural photographic objects, mounted unframed and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are UV prints on thick machine cut sintra, made in 2012. Five of the works are roughly rectangular, ranging in size from 14×59 to 19×55; the other work on display is roughly square, at 54×56. All of the works are unique. This is Vierkant’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: While my itinerant wanderings through the galleries and museums of New York are mostly about looking at and thinking about the art, I would be a liar if I didn’t say that there is a healthy component of socialization and information transfer that goes on as well. From time to time, the endless chatter inside the photography bubble converges around certain ideas or artists that seem to be particularly relevant or of the moment. In my experience, for the past few months, the work of Artie Vierkant has been one of those recurring themes, his images popping up in group shows and his name echoing in idle conversation. Folks are paying attention more than you might expect for a generally unknown artist.
In a certain way, I think this is happening more for the elegance and timeliness of his ideas than for the end points of his artworks. For nearly its entire history, photography has been concerned with the final print as the ultimate and definitive expression of the will of the artist. In our post Internet digital age, Vierkant calls this whole mindset into question, cutting the Gordian knot of what digitization means with a single easy stroke. His view is that the art object now floats between multiple instantiations, unlimited by the traditional boundaries of medium. In this world, there is no original or better copy, the digital file (or software code) being just as valid or important as the gallery print. The “data” of the art is simply presented or represeneted in different ways, moving back and forth between the logical and the physical, taking into account the nature of the communities with which it is interacting.
The works on the walls at Higher Pictures were constructed in PhotoShop, starting with geometric forms and straightforward gradients. The colorful abstractions were then layered iteratively, using filters, skew angles and color mixing to create stuttering, overlapped shapes built from shared elements. Different “final” compositions have been time stamped, as the process continued and additional incarnations/versions were conceived. There are fades, blurs, wipes, and arcs, both pure in their brightness and perfectly flat, the appearance of space squashed into a single plane. As objects, the prints have an unexpected texture, a matte finish that somehow seems sparkly without being glossy; as digital files on the gallery website, they pop with eye-boggling crispness.
As abstractions, I think Vierkant’s images feel like first steps; I think he can (and likely will) go much further in terms of complexity and risk taking in the future. What I find exciting is the idea of the mediumless artist who moves effortlessly from one output form to another, equally happy in video, sculpture, photography or the open ended, shared, remixed, reworked data file. Some might argue that we are no longer in the realm of pure photography, but likely that definition doesn’t really matter any more. Vierkant seems to be a model for a new kind of artistic thinking, one that embraces and extends the fluidity of the digital world rather than fighting it.
Collector’s POV: The 5 rectangular pieces on view were priced at $6000 each and the larger square piece was $10000. I use the past tense on purpose here, since all of the works were sold before the show even opened. Vierkant’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for those collectors interested in following up.