Daniel Gordon, Blue Room @James Fuentes

JTF (just the facts): A total of 5 photographic works, framed in white, and hung in the smaller back room space. 2 of the works are pigment prints with UV lamination, from 2018. These works are sized roughly 38×30 or 55×68 inches, and are available in editions of 3+1AP. The other 3 works are pigment prints on canvas with UV finish, also from 2018. These works are each sized roughly 50×40 inches and are unique. All of the works are hung against a floor to ceiling wallpaper installation designed by the artist. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: The works in Daniel Gordon’s last New York gallery show (in 2017, reviewed here) were evidence of an artist in the midst of an aesthetic transition.

The early part of Gordon’s photographic career had been filled with innovatively exploring the issues of physical construction in photography. Using paper photographs as his raw material, he tore, cut, glued, and recast the images, building them into new forms and installations where the ideas of still life representation, conceptual inversion, and the dichotomy of sculptural/photographic space were thoughtfully engaged.

But his more recent works found him rethinking that straight line progression and trajectory – having in essence extended it to its logical limits (in increasingly large and complex arrangements), he began to experiment with moving backward, de-constructing the very constructions he had spent so much time and effort building. This opened up several new areas for exploration, including the opportunities provided by overt digital removal and reduction, as well as more direct investigations of the nuances of photographic/painterly texture via printing on canvas.

The works in this small show consolidate this evolving thinking into a much more integrated and confident artistic expression than was visible just a year ago. At first glance, the most obvious change comes in Gordon’s palette. Gone are the exuberant eye-popping colors that once filled his table top arrangements with jolting energy, now replaced by a more muted and soothing range of blues that have toned down the visual cacophony. This reduction to a tighter range of hues has clarified Gordon’s compositions in the same way that the limited monochrome range of black and white photography forces a new kind of seeing. He’s still playing with color inversions (poppies turned white, lemons and apricots turned blue, etc.), but in many ways, those smartly constructed reversals are no longer so central. Instead, they have become subset pieces of Gordon’s larger thinking about composition and space, where shadows, outlines, and layers of form and depth become the true subject.

Gordon seems perfectly comfortable straddling the fence between “painting” and “photography”. In the two images that are output as photographs, physical objects on a tabletop (fruit, jugs, arrangements of flowers and plants) continue the push and pull between physical presence and photographic flatness, deliberately confounding our visual intuition. But the photographic backdrops fall away from this specificity, allowing the cutouts and shadows (now light rather than dark) to dissolve into rough, seemingly hand drawn digital outlines with pixelated edges.

In the three images on canvas, the visual byproducts of the original still lifes become the starting point for new reductions. In Bowl of Apricots, the fruits made of crinkled paper photographs have been softened into painterly splotches like those made by sponge paints, and spiky leaf forms have become something akin to watercolors, albeit in approximate digital form. The bowl itself is cutout nothingness, a view inside another image, like windows laid on top of each other. In Pitchers and Apricot with Leaf Shadows, the outlines and reversed shadow forms pile up into an intermingled jumble, with areas of echoed white wrestling with the overlapped lines of the original objects. These works bear little resemblance to Gordon’s original table top arrangements, acting more like impressions, or memories, or refrains allowed to wander.

Gordon’s liberal reuse of imagery can lead to a telescoping picture within a picture effect, and this jittering and doubling is writ large on the surrounding walls of the small gallery. The back room at James Fuentes has been transformed into an installation that mimics the layers of space in the pictures. In the backdrop of Apples and Apricots in Blue, an elemental outline painting of one of the fruits hangs on the “wall”; and in the space of the gallery, the photograph is hung on a wall covered with an echo of the same image, bending the layering effect back on itself. So standing in the room feels like stepping into one of the images, the pixelated leaf forms in particular creating a enveloping netting of lines and gestures.

Seen together, the works represent a self-assured step forward for Gordon. In paring back, cutting away, and emptying out, he has found a promising path leading outside the formerly impregnable walls of the still life. He’s also actively encouraged the lines between digital photography and digital painting to blur, lingering in that in between zone where properties from each medium tussle with each other. There is a sense here that he is on a new and promising aesthetic track, and with each new experiment, the momentum is growing.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The editioned pigment prints are $10000 or $14000, based on size, while the pigment prints on canvas are $12000 each. Gordon’s work has little consistent secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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