JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 color and black and white photographic works, either unframed and pinned directly to the wall or framed in white, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the two office areas. All of the works are Polaroid prints, either single images, diptychs, triptychs, or multi image sets, made between 2016 and 2019. Single prints range in size from 10×8 to 28×22 inches, while one set of eight smaller prints is framed together at 22×38 inches. All of the works are unique. The show also includes 1 single channel video, from 2018. It has a duration of 5 minutes 51 seconds and is available in an edition of 5. (Installation shots and film stills below.)
Comments/Context: Beatrice Pediconi’s watery abstractions linger in the undefined space between science and art. Her photographs and videos are made by shooting straight down into a tank filled with water, paint, and perhaps other oils, the introduction and mixing of the fluids creating a seemingly infinite universe of swirling variation.
For the science minded, her artworks are akin to studies in fluid dynamics. Each image captures the properties of individual experiments, where randomness and turbulence in the water create ever changing examples of eddies, recirculation, and stagnation. Depending on the ratios of the fluids and their relative viscosities (and likely other factors like temperature, elapsed time, and insertion velocity/direction), Pediconi can generate a wide range of different effects. The newest works in this show add a splash of red color to the otherwise monochrome systems, enabling a new set of contrasts.
Made using an extra large 20×24 Polaroid camera, the images are minutely detailed, allowing and encouraging the viewer to find visual associations in the abstractions. A few look like the elaborate marbling of Florentine papers. Others recall drifting glaciers and ice deposits, where layers build up into cracked sediments and veins of water penetrate masses like rivers. Still others seem like microscopic views of cell division or droplets of blood, or under even further magnification, the netting of polymers or the endless dividing of fractals. Or perhaps we need to go the other way, to the parallels of immense scale, to see the sputtering of solar flares or the rotation of galactic clouds. Pediconi opts for the ancient Greek tale of Gaea (Mother Earth) and her birth out of Chaos as the defining motif, the dissolving compositions an apt metaphor for the process of finding equilibrium between order and disorder.
The larger print size and the introduction of red absolutely enliven her most recent images. Instead of being one single enveloping flow, each photograph has a protagonist, the red paint becoming the central “character” that we follow, and who reacts against the complex forces in the larger environment. The multi-panel sets also bring in an engaging element of elapsed time, as before/after or step-wise iteration comparisons can be made between the images as the system continues to change.
The single video work (on view in a darkened side room) takes these ideas further. The fluid tank starts out black, and jets of white and red paint then intermittently billow and explode into the darkness (from what appear as “above” and “below”), the video capturing the continual evolution of the color as it wafts and dissolves. Some of the movements create pulsing blasts and bursts that expand to fill the space with misty clouds, while others are more like narrow squirts that pierce and then slowly disassemble, allowing us to watch each tendril elongate. The result is a primordial soup that is quietly hypnotic, the change not frozen for an instant (as in the photographs) but allowed to aggregate into an extended meditative flux.
The understated natural wonder that inhabits in these new works by Pediconi gives them their tension and vitality. Whether our entry point is an interest in how artists have extended and leveraged the large format Polaroid process, an attention to expressive painterly abstractions, or a desire to see intricate illustrations of complex scientific principles and systems, the works provide an opening for artistic dialogue. Even when the photographs stop the churning motion so we can examine it more closely, an invisible momentum seems to upend that static moment, making the fragile impermanence of the subject that much more obvious.
Collector’s POV: The photographs (and sets of photographs) in this show range in price between $6000 and $20000 each; the video is priced at $7000. Pediconi’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.