David Nadel, Burns @Sasha Wolf

JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung in the single room gallery space. All of the prints are archival pigment prints. The images come in two sizes: 15×12 in editions of 8, and 35×44 in editions of 6. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: David Nadel’s photographs of snow bound Montana forests reduce the landscape to a set of minimalist gestures, where charred tree trunks become dark vertical lines against the vast expanse of white. His pictures are like abstract exercises in linear geometry, executed with the delicacy of a dry point etching.
My first reaction when I entered the gallery was that these pictures were the direct descendants of Frank Gohlke’s Mount St. Helens images from the early 1980s, and they certainly share a common aesthetic of fallen trees and dense textural surfaces. What’s different here is that Nadel’s pictures are even flatter; significant depths of distance have been aligned into one skyless plane, removing the sense of scale and abstracting the mountains and valleys into white backdrops. As such, there is also some intellectual kinship to Frederick Sommer’s desert works, or some of Taiji Matsue’s elevated landscapes. Depending on Nadel’s position, the blackened trunks can look like up-close shoots of bamboo, or can be transformed into a calligraphic mix of spindly lines when seen from afar. The contrasts of thick and thin become the elements of his monochrome compositions.
At one level, there is something simple and decorative about this work; the effects of powerful burning have been softened, turned into muted line drawings. What I like better is to consider the concept of using the land as a basis for radical abstraction, and to see how different photographers have stripped away context in landscape to highlight its nuances of pattern and form.
Collector’s POV: The works on view are priced as follows: the 15×12 prints are $1200 each and the 35×44 prints are $3000 each. Nadel’s work has not yet entered the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
My favorite image in the show is Burn #2; it’s on the right in the in the middle installation shot. I liked the busy right angle intersection of perpendicular lines formed by the vertical trunks and the fallen logs.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Review: Wall Street Journal (here, scroll down)
Through March 26th
Sasha Wolf Gallery
528 West 28th Street
New York, NY 10001

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