Garrett Pruter, Interiors @Charles Bank

JTF (just the facts): A total of 25 photographic works, either framed in white and unmatted or unframed, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the entry area. 10 of the works (9 single images and 1 diptych) are unique photographic collages, ranging in size from 18×24 to 30×40 (or reverse). 9 of the works are paintings made from mixtures of photographic pigment, turpenoid, aluminum, and linseed oil on canvas, ranging in size from 40×30 to 72×60. 4 of the works are made from bleach applied to archival inkjet prints, each 30×40. And the show also includes 1 video, available in an edition of 3+1AP, and 1 graphite drawing, sized 31×45. All of the works were made in 2013. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Garrett Pruter’s newest works use vernacular photography as a starting point for physical explorations of surface, color, and process, breaking down found images using a variety of gestural, hand-crafted methods. He brings fresh approaches to collage, bleaching, and ultimately to painting, iteratively deconstructing images of floral bouquets, cats, and birthday cakes until all that remains is a wash of diluted, residual pigment. It’s an exercise in repeated subtraction, beginning with something vaguely familiar and ending up somewhere entirely new.

Pruter’s approach to collage is the exact opposite of the usual dense agglomeration of layered images. It is instead an excising, a cutting away of central focal points. Tiny cut marks and edges shows us where a cat once sat, where a leg once draped over a purple couch, or where an amaryllis in a pot once stood. In each image, Pruter has multiplied the image, placing a misaligned copy of the original image underneath the cut out area, shifting it left or right to keep the continuity of the colors but to upend the visibility of what we’re supposed to be looking at. In other collages, he has matched his cutouts to the character of the imagery: a smear across a birthday cake or small dots that echo the baby’s breath in a flower arrangement. In these works, his see-through background is now shiny mylar, creating a silvery mirrored effect. In still others, the found imagery is jumbled together – the black cat from one collage has now become the surprise underneath the removed rose blooms in the bouquet of another. Seen together, the collages feel like a progression of experimental ideas.

Pruter’s investigation of erasure continues in both his bleached images and his video. Starting once again with found imagery, Pruter has painted bleach across the images in gestural washes, turning the outline of a house into ghostly white emptiness. Like Curtis Mann, he is using the whiteness to obscure and remove, leaving behind clues and faded memories. The floral bouquet is repeatedly dissected, leaving a splatter of bleach spotted flowers or just a single red bloom amid the white spots of the baby’s breath. The video explores similar territory, but with much more deliberateness. At first glance, the video looks to be a still image of the same rose bouquet, and after a minute or two of nothing happening, I gave up and moved on. When I circled back, one of the blooms had disappeared, and again later, another vanished. Slowly and carefully, all of the blooms were removed, Pruter’s methodical process of reduction spread out over time.

The most surprising works in the show are Pruter’s abstract “paintings”, where his disassembly of the found imagery is taken to its ultimate limit. Gathering up all the scraps and leftover bits from his collages, he has mixed the fragments in with solvent and oil, dissolving them into a slurry of photographic pigment which he has then smeared and spread in vertical swaths across canvas. From afar, the results run the gamut from soft pastel pink to reddish brown. Up close, the works are often dotted with tiny flecks of multicolored emulsion, sometimes thin and transparent like cherry skins, other times more congealed and coagulated like dried syrup. I liked both their textural drips and the underlying conceptual idea of the photographs reduced to their elemental chemical colors.

In general, I think Pruter’s line of thinking is intriguing. He has opted to explore the boundaries of photography via reduction and removal, playing both with representational recognition and process-driven abstraction. In an age of adding, tuning, and manipulating, I was reminded that taking away can be just as powerful and innovative.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The collages range from $1000 to $2400 based on size. The paintings range from $2800 to $8000, again based on size. The bleached prints are $2400 each, the graphite drawing is $2400, and the video is $2000. Pruter’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is the still the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.

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Read more about: Garrett Pruter, Judith Charles Gallery

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