Florian Maier-Aichen @303 Gallery

JTF (just the facts): A total of 7 large scale color and black and white photographs, generally framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the entry area and the main gallery space. 5 of the works are c-prints, made in 2013 and 2014. These prints range in size from roughly 67×54 to 101×81, and are available in editions of 6. The show also includes 1 gelatin silver print and 1 dye transfer print (framed in black), both made in 2014. The gelatin silver print is sized roughly 61×49, while the dye transfer is roughly 27×21; both are available in editions of 6. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Florian Maier-Aichen’s newest works find him once again out on the border between painting and photography, continuing to experiment with how gesture and chance can be incorporated into a deterministic medium. With each successive show, he’s diving deeper into process, intermingling once separate effects, bringing layering and rephotography into the mix with actual painted surfaces. More than ever before, I felt a sense of iteration, of this followed by that, ultimately leading to images that consistently try to interrupt and undermine themselves.

At first glance, many of Maier-Aichen’s abstractions look like straightforward photographs of paintings. Hand drawn swirls dance around, dissolving into energetic fields of drips and more violent splashes. A closer look reveals these painterly touches to have echoes – positive/negative combinations of white/black or slight misalignments like ghosts. These are a result of a sandwiching process, where transparent sheets like those once used in cel animation have been stacked together and then rephotographed, creating rhythms and repetitions that bounce across the surface. With its subtle blurs and refractions, a knot of splattered white paint against a transitional background suddenly starts to look like a cosmic explosion.

Maier-Aichen’s more traditional aerials rely on a variety of processes and techniques to push them away from conventionality. High contrast gelatin silver creates a crisply bisected black and white lake scene, which is then punctuated by a gloppy splash of chemical whiteness in the upper corner. A long distance view of Los Angeles is turned pink by infrared film, and then decorated with added marks in the sky. And a gentle Swiss mountain scene is distorted by the time dilation of the tricolor process, where moments between red, green, and blue create disorienting color shifts. Again and again, photography is being undercut, its weaknesses exposed and then consciously reworked.

Even when Maier-Aichen is tweaking and manipulating, his works never seem to cross the line from restraint into exuberance; control is never in danger of being lost. His machinations have a more sober, intellectual tone, asking us to embrace his thought process as much as his end product. His pictures are held in check, smartly innovative, but locked down tight.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced between $30000 and $70000, generally based on size. Maier-Aichen’s work has become consistently available in the secondary markets in the past few years, with recent prices ranging between $12000 and $180000.

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