Deana Lawson, Judy Linn, & Paul Mpagi Sepuya @Sikkema Jenkins

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing the work of 3 photographers, variously framed/unframed, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the entry area.

The following artists/photographers have been included in the exhibit, with the number of works on view, their processes, dates, and other information as background:

  • Deana Lawson: 3 pigment prints, 2013, 2015, 2016, sized 35×45, 40×50, and 44×55, in editions of 3, 1 set of 46 pigment prints, 2013, each 11×8, no edition information available
  • Judy Linn: 14 digital prints, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, sized 14×16, 19×24, or 24×31 (or reverse), in editions of 4
  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya: 7 archival pigment prints, 2013, 2014, 2015, sized 24×18, 30×24, or 48×36, in editions of 3 or 5, 1 table installation with laser prints, ink on paper, postcards, binder clips, and artist books, 2011-2017, unique

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: This intermingled trio show brings together the unlikely harmonies of Deana Lawson, Judy Linn, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya. In many ways, these are three photographers whom we might rightly assume have little to say to each other, given the diversity of their aesthetic styles, working methods, and subject matter on view here. But even with all of their obvious divergences, when hung together, their works do start to build tenuous bridges to each other, to the surprising benefit of all.

Deana Lawson’s sensitively seen portraits provide the ballast for this show, their empathetic intensity and emotional resonance setting the tone to which the others are forced respond. The penetrating stares of a couple in their living room in Brownsville and Cortez lounging on the roof of his car pull us in with curious force – we immediately want to know more. From there, it is the details that give Lawson’s images their additional depth and roundness – the long purple fingernails, the curtain taped up to the wall, the laundry in a cart, the joint between fingers, the tie hanging from the rearview mirror – and it’s these tiny observations and narrative fragments that come together to hold us in rapt attention. The same can be said for Lawson’s series of appropriated prison visit photos. In each staged family shot, we see the invisible remnants of incarceration and its lasting (and often disheartening) effects on relationships and personal behavior.

With Lawson’s powerful portraits hanging nearby, Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s works feel more arms length and distanced, their layers and divisions more cerebral and conceptual. Using his studio (and a tabletop) as venues for experimentation, Sepuya explores spatial fragmentation, image layering, and rephotographed collage, using the “picture of a picture” effect to upend our expectations and create uneasy juxtapositions. A finger shows us where to look, a yellow Post-It note tags an image, a camera brazenly looks back at us, and a male armpit echoes the typical curved form of a woman’s hips, and in each case, we are confronted by the action of photography and our participation in the optical exchange. As the dislocated images pile up and interact, Sepuya’s prints edge toward the deliberate chaos of his tabletop installation, where ideas seem to flow and intermingle with controlled fluidity.

Given the earnestness of these first two bodies of work, Judy Linn’s contributions to this group show feel almost comedic. Her pictures capture the playful absurdity of life, as uniquely seen by a camera, and her images aren’t afraid of the weird and wonderful. A snowy mural decorates the garage of a one story tract house, fallen trees make a perfect X in the forest, a baby peers up from under a diner table, and three black-shoed feet seem to belong to the same woman. Again and again, Linn celebrates found oddity, her photograph of a tilted house an apt echo of her off kilter viewpoint.

So perhaps it is the photographic observation of details that connects these three disparate artists – from Lawson’s close examination of the telling nuances that evoke a life story, to Sepuya’s careful accumulation of details that pile on top of each other to create new spatial interactions, and finally on to Linn’s witty attention to the visual eccentricities of everyday existence. And what makes this show effective is how those commonalities are balanced by differences of mood, letting Linn’s lightness of touch offset the conceptual intricacy of Sepuya and the emotional potency of Lawson. Together, these threads weave into a well constructed interchange of ideas, where unlikely artistic companions turn out to have more to talk about than we expected.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows, by photographer:

  • Deana Lawson: $25000 each, with the price not available for the set of 46 images
  • Judy Linn: $5000 each
  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya: $3400 to $7000 based on size, with the table installation at $8000

The works of these photographers do not have significant secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Read more about: Deana Lawson, Judy Linn, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

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