Daniel Gordon, Still Lifes, Portraits & Parts

JTF (just the facts): Published by Mörel Books (here) in 2013. Hardcover, 102 pages, with 47 color photographs. The works included were made between 2008 and 2013. The book includes an essay by Eva Respini. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Having seen a few of Daniel Gordon’s newest works at art fairs in the past year or two (his last gallery show in New York was in 2011, review linked in the sidebar), I was quick to pick up this new comprehensive monograph when I visited the New York Art Book Fair, mostly because I wanted to see a larger sample of what he’s been up to. The good news is that his fragmented still lifes and portraits keep getting better, and this book is an excellent compendium of his innovations over the past five years or so.

Gordon’s photographs simultaneously exist in two photographic modes: on one hand, as sculptural table top constructions of physical photographs, and on the other, as polished finished photographs of those same set ups, with each mode built squarely on the properties of how a camera sees. His faces and fruit bowls are assembled from photographs themselves, the paper scissored, torn and roughly stuck together with stringy glue, brimming with raw object quality physicality. His process is the opposite of seamless digital perfection, a rejection of software manipulation in favor of hand crafted edges and mismatches, the contrasts of appropriated sharpness and blur, and the clashes of layered collaging.

Gordon’s newest still lifes go further than his first experiments in the genre, bringing chaotic complexity and a bold dash of Matisse’s use of color and pattern into the mix. Fruits and vegetables with crumpled edges and unexpected tints are haphazardly piled on brash geometrics and batiks, offset by vases and jugs of pieced together flowers. Our expectations for surface and distance are constantly upended, where flatness stands in for three dimensional roundness, but cast shadows give us some sense of presence. Seen as full compositions, the works have an over-the-top, excessive joyfulness, built on a foundation of clever conceptual formulation that makes them far more than just decorative.

Gordon’s portraits play with these same visual themes, using a jumble of disassembled shards of features as raw material. Here he comes back to Picasso via photographic means, borrowing Cubist ideas and executing them in new ways. Fragments of mismatched eyes, jagged scraps of hair, and shredded strips of male and female lips are combined into one layered, jittering, composite face, flatness and depth in a constant conflicted battle. Other portraits are more obviously sculptural, where a mixed up foreground cutout composition casts an elegant profile shadow, often fanned out into multiple layers of spatial echoes and silhouettes. Roughness and grace are juxtaposed, with rips, slashes, and pieced together oddness resolving into simple elegance.

This is an impressive collection of photographs, each one an extension and expansion of his original ideas, bursting with vitality. With each successive work, Gordon seems to be going further, testing the limits of how far he can push our senses before we beg for mercy. The more outlandish Gordon gets, the smarter and more fantastic the works are becoming, and I for one, am now paying very close attention to his path forward.

Collector’s POV: Daniel Gordon is represented by Wallspace (here) in New York. Gordon’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets with any regularity, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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