Elizabeth Atterbury, In the Middle, An Oasis

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2013 by Bodega Press (here). Paperback, 60 pages, with 28 black and white and color photographs. There are no texts or essays included. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: After seeing an intriguing image by Elizabeth Atterbury in a group show at KANSAS earlier this year (here), when I ran across her new monograph on a table at Printed Matter recently, I was happy to have an opportunity to learn more about her work. Atterbury is one of a growing number of contemporary artists exploring the intersection between sculpture and photography. The images in this thin volume move back and forth, shuttling between photographs that are finely attuned to the formal relationships and textural qualities of arranged objects and constructed sculptural works that were made to be photographed. Regardless of her entry point, her images have a pared down, intuitive sense for positive and negative space and a willingness to experiment with how her camera sees those relationships.

Many of Atterbury’s abstract constructions play with multiple layers, using cut outs to expose color contrasts underneath or to provide depth between two parallel planes. Like Letha Wilson, she has also employed a peeling back technique, where the left over material falls forward, creating echoes of shape that droop toward the viewer and cast their own shadows. Each of these works seems like a visual problem to be solved, where space, texture, and contrast are worked into uneasy formal balance. Atterbury’s black and white photographs of counters and tabletops wrestle with these same issues. Her arrangement of a telephone and a shiny lamp is carefully harmonized with the curves of a basket and a ceramic pot, while spherical germinating avocado pits contrast with a container of fluffy popcorn, offset by multiple equidistant arcs and angles from the surrounding objects. Each photograph mixes seemingly mundane still life scenes with details that are exactingly staged and rigidly controlled, giving an uncanny clarity to the everyday.

While Atterbury’s artistic career is just getting started, I think there are glimmers of insight and refinement here worth following. As her work increases in complexity, her spatial balancing act will get more risky and difficult, adding in a further layer of tension to her already tautly strung abstractions and arrangements.

Collector’s POV: I wasn’t able to find any consistent gallery representation for Elizabeth Atterbury’s work. As a result, interested collectors should likely connect with the artist directly via her website or Bodega (both linked in the sidebar).

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