Daniel Gordon: Still Lifes, Portraits & Parts @Wallspace

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the main gallery space, the smaller back room, and the office area. The prints are chromogenic prints, ranging in size from 16×20 to 46×36 (or reverse), available in editions of 3, from 2010/2011. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: When I was first exposed to the work of Daniel Gordon at the 2009 version of MoMA’s New Photography show (here), I remember thinking that the images were somewhat grotesque and off-putting, with a psychological roughness that made them hard to get close to. In the intervening years since that exhibit, I’m not sure whether Gordon’s work has become slightly more refined or whether my interest in photography that is challenging and unexpected has increased (or both), but I certainly found his newest batch of pictures to be rich and exciting.

As a reminder, Gordon’s process is both elaborate and resolutely physical. He starts with appropriated digital imagery (both sharp and pixelated/distorted), which is then printed out onto actual paper. These prints are then collaged together into three dimensional tabletop sculptures, with torn edges, fishing line, and dollops of glue left bare as evidence. The final constructed results are then photographed using a view camera, providing extra clarity and detail.

Gordon’s portraits reuse elements of Cubism in a modern way: his faces are made of disassembled, mismatched scraps of features, which are then reconstructed and layered in non-obvious ways, mixing male and female, hard and soft, and often employing multiple conflicting angles. His newest portraits seem tighter than the ones I saw a few years ago, less jolting for the sake of shock value and more nuanced and interconnected. His still lifes of flowers and fruit take a well-worn genre and introduce combinations of texture and color that upend expectations: a vase is simultaneously crumpled and out of focus, peaches are both pink and blue, their roundness both flat and crinkled. And a third group of pictures moves more toward crafty sculptural abstraction, with Dada-like side silhouetted faces that cast shadows across intermediate spaces.

What I like about these photographs is that there are some risks being taken. The images are proof of a constant process of reuse and reformulation, less in the hackneyed digital sense, but more in the manner of fragmentation and reassembly, of seeing photographs as open-ended, malleable raw material to be employed in more complex and original visual descriptions.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced between $3500 and $6500, based on size. Gordon’s work is not yet widely available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only real option for interested collectors at this point.

By the way, this show was hung quite sparsely, with large expanses of empty white wall in between the prints. To my eye, the rooms could have held a few more images, which assuming they were available, would have made for a more powerful overall impression of Gordon’s recent work.

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One comment

  1. Anonymous /

    Excellent show.

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