JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 large scale color works, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. All of the works are chromogenic prints, made in 2013 and 2014. Physical sizes range from 24×20 to 76×50, and all the prints are unique. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Conveyor Editions (here), and is available from the gallery for $30. (Installation shots below, courtesy of Yancey Richardson Gallery.)
Comments/Context: Bryan Graf’s electric new photograms leave the trappings of the natural world behind and take us further into a methodical study of expressionistic, improvisational forms. While many of his previous works explored the conceptual echoes of backyard leaves, pine needles, and shadowy landscapes (Broken Lattice, 2013 here and Field Recordings, 2011 here), these recent pictures start with a connection back to an elemental black and white photogram of window screen mesh, and then push that aesthetic idea out into more muscular and expansive darkroom studies that crackle with bright color.
Like Barbara Kasten’s cyanotypes from the mid 1970s, Graf’s photograms explore the formal possibilities of the graph paper-like cloth, following billows and undulations of line as they create elegant surface variations that wander from dark to light. His compositions are much more dense and layered than Kasten’s were, turning the wrinkled mesh into complex transparent piles that bulge and crumple in thick puddles of loosely strewn fabric; in some we trace the contours like the squiggled wavy lines of a topographical map, in others we peer through jumbled haphazard folds, the tossed together overlapped mesh becoming a misty, ghostly scrim.
Color-wise, Graf has turned up the volume several notches, leaving behind the saturated Fall palette of acidic yellow, burnt orange, and waning green of his previous works and opting for a more pure spectrum rainbow, keyed up for bolder, more intense combinations. He’s also expanded the physical scale of the works, the biggest of the photograms now easily filling a wall or elongating into a scroll-like tower. Between the eye popping color and the increased scale, these works feel related to Walead Beshty’s massive color abstractions, but with a softer formal delicacy that encourages up close investigation of the tiny nuances of the pliant veiled surface.
While the duality of chance and intention has always played a role in Graf’s process-centric darkroom experiments, these new works feel more open ended than ever before; between the translucent folds of the mesh and the many color filters at his disposal, the ever shifting combinations have led to end result outcomes that are more expressively performative, like Mariah Robertson’s gestural mashups of imagery and chemical spills. It’s as if the consciously imperfect simplicity of his earlier work has become more frenzied, his perception exercises allowed to iterate several more steps, the chaos intruding with more force. The aerial view of a gridded LA highway has given way to a much more malleable stand-in, the willowy mesh swirling and dancing into light “landscapes” far more flexible and supple than anything found in the outside world.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $4000 and $14000 based on size. Graf’s prints have little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.