Brea Souders @Bruce Silverstein

JTF (just the facts): A total of 23 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the entry area, the small front room, and the larger main gallery space. All of the works are archival inkjet prints, made between 2010 and 2014. Physical sizes range from roughly 13×10 to 40×32, with edition sizes either 3+2AP or 8+2AP. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Brea Souders’ first show with Bruce Silverstein is a broad gathering of the photographer’s work made in the past several years, offering a diverse foundational introduction for those seeing her photography for the first time. It brings together a selection of images made from rephotographed cut up negatives and transparencies (perhaps her best known works to date), as well as a more exploratory collection of multi-layered, often illusionistic still lifes. Installed as an intermingled non-chronological mix, the exhibit provides evidence of a restless, experimenting artistic mind, open ended and a bit all over the place but constantly testing and reconsidering what her camera might offer.

Leftover shards and slivers of sliced negatives form the basis for several of Souders’ subprojects, playing off the ability of these fragments to both partially communicate some visual message and act as colored sculptural objects. Single photographic scraps (clothes on a clothesline, an extended hand against a blue background, a blurred red flower against greenery) are the simplest compositions, hinting at elusive stories or memories, their meaning just out of reach. Handfuls of strips increase the complexity, seeming to hang in a suspended state of falling (they’re actually adhered to clear plastic acetate using static electricity), casting tiny shadows and being pulled into breezy cascading towers. And by incrementally adding more and more scraps, Souders makes the piles even more dense, turning them into jagged interlocked masses of darkened color. Together, they are a kind of continuum, from loosely representational to improvisationally abstract.

Her still life installations and assemblages are more overtly conceptual, consistently playing with visual perception and often turning on unexpected inversions or symbolic tricks. A mirror inserted into a field of wildflowers reflects the pure blue sky above and the loose flowers strewn across it, doubling the density of blossoms and creating blue rectangle that interrupts the grassy meadow. Gestural dollops of paint, water droplets, and chemical smears perch on the surface of underlying images with perplexing tactile immediacy. And faint goldfish swim on painted canvas, beneath torn paper and wilting leaves, a pastel enigma of layers and allusions. Each picture is a test of interpretation, with an inside joke or clever juxtaposition at its core.

This is the show of an artist trying on a lot of ideas, tuning her voice and willingly starting fresh again and again. There are plenty of nuggets of original inspiration to be found here, and with an ongoing effort to push them further and edit them more ruthlessly, that promise will hopefully evolve into a concise vision.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $3160 and $10000 (with several intermediate prices), generally based on size. Souders’ prints have yet to reach the secondary markets, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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Read more about: Brea Souders, Bruce Silverstein Gallery

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