JTF (just the facts): A total of 12 large scale color works, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main downstairs gallery and the entry area. All of the works are unique color darkroom photograms, made in 2017. Image sizes range from roughly 39×30 to 92×30 (or reverse). (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: While numerous photographers across the history of the medium have become known for their masterful use of color, few have monopolized a set of hues in the manner of David Benjamin Sherry. Employing a peppy rainbow of brightly saturated colors, it’s as if Sherry has developed a entirely novel approach to color, and rather than limiting himself to a particular shade, his rich candy-hued pastels have become a consistently recognizable aesthetic signature.
In his earlier works, Sherry applied these colors to the broad landscapes of the American West, tinting grand desert vistas and iconic mountain views. The brash colors upended our expectations for such images, giving them an added dose of dauntingly acidic climate change or an unexpected queer perspective.
In this show, Sherry continues both his employment of his unmistakable palette and his interest in the history of the photography. Moving more completely into the darkroom, he’s now exploring the nuances of the classic photogram technique, once again looking back and reimagining a genre in often original ways.
Most of the works on view here are deceptively simple geometric progressions, where circles, squares, and rectangles pile up on each other. Made using cardboard cutouts and multiple exposures, the compositions are layered with Albers-like rigor, creating inward telescoping stacks that grow in intensity as they draw into the center. Deviations from this formula introduce semicircles, alternate additive color pulses, and multi-unit arrangements, the hand-crafted reality of the production process showing up in tiny misalignments and variations along the edges of the forms. But Sherry constantly keeps us off guard – at one moment, titling his works with the exact numeric setups on his enlarger used to generate his aqua blue and buttery yellow, and at another, adding sprocketed edges and Kodak notations to images that never once lived inside a camera. He’s playing with our assumptions about what photograms are supposed to look like, tweaking us along the way as he looks for ways to push the genre somewhere new.
Several larger works go beyond this strictness of geometry, allowing Sherry to become more improvisational. Layered compositions merge physical lie-on-the-paper impressions of the the artist’s own body, interweaving disembodied arms, legs, hands, and even a full figure. Sherry then interrupts these studies with areas of puzzling digital patterning. These hard edged waves, undulating checkerboards, sparkling stars, pixelized static, and even a satellite image from Mars run counter to what we expect from the old school analog photogram process. Achieved through the use of transparent acetate print outs (of various opacities) that cast their patterns on the paper below, the repeated forms wallpaper certain areas of the images, mixing the aesthetics. Even Sherry’s dog gets involved, becoming part of a densely layered composition filled with frames.
While at some level Sherry isn’t doing anything that we haven’t seen before in photograms, the combination of the application of his unique colors and his experimentation with a handful of deliberately mismatched techniques leads to a body of work that feels fresh. He is at once paying homage to past masters and rebuilding the genre in his own image, playing notes we recognize and expect, but doing so inside his own melodies.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show range in price from $16000 to $28000 based on size. Sherry’s work has begun to enter the secondary markets in the past few years, with prices at auction ranging between roughly $6000 and $15000.