JTF (just the facts): A total of 26 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted or unframed and pinned directly to the wall, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. All of the works are pigment prints, made in 2012 or 2013. 24 of the prints are hung together as a single set, each print sized either 23×15 or 23×30. The other two works are sized 24×36 and 44×81 respectively. All of the prints are available in editions of 3+2AP. This is the artist’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: While technology has always been at the heart of photographic seeing, one of the consequences of the digital revolution is that once again (it happens every time we change the underlying platform), we are becoming acutely aware of how the machines we use for image making (namely camera and software) function. Several decades ago, we were down in the weeds exploring arcane darkroom and chemical techniques to create different visual outcomes. Today, we are adjusting and calibrating via increasingly powerful software tools, and bumping up against new limits we hadn’t considered much in the past.
For the record, the gamut warning in the title of this exhibit is a software feature which highlights the color mismatches between the RGB of your screen and the CMYK of a commercial printer, helping you to understand that your image on your monitor is much brighter and richer than the inks used to make prints can generally match. By showing you which colors won’t translate exactly, it highlights the further corrections needed to make an image ready for printing.
Jordan Tate’s show is a riff on this idea of corner case color matching, and a meditation on the idea of the layers of technical mediation between object and photograph. Hung edge to edge across the surface of two of the gallery walls, the main work on view is a rebus-like frieze of imagery, starting with a printed approximation of Yves Klein blue and ending with a swirling black and white satellite image. The territory in between is filled with scientific still lifes (test tubes, slides, and other technical equipment), color gradients and test patterns, and ancient objects (marble statuary, constellations, rock specimens) being measured. Together, the images consider the nature of seeing from a variety of angles, applying scientific rigor to the underlying details of image making. In this world, we’re light years from the decisive moment and instead buried in the technical minutiae of what photography has become. Tate makes this idea more explicit with a large printer palette demo hung across the gallery, a tangible manifestation of the limits of the printed color system and an emblem of the new constraints, helpfully adorned with a note to consult the user’s manual if you’re confused.
I think Tate’s work fits squarely into the larger trend of bringing the mind of an engineer into the realm of photography. As more and more scientists, software developers, and hackers delve into digital photography, we are seeing the emergence of a different kind of artistic mindset, one that is perfectly comfortable with systems design and networked technical complexity. These artists are exploring photography’s traditional limits using more structured, iterative strategies, and coming up with artworks that reconsider the underlying mechanical foundations of the image making process and that question what changes to those technical underpinnings might mean. It’s an innovative way to deconstruct photography, and we’re just at the beginning of seeing what this new approach might enable.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The set of 24 prints is available as a single work for $28000 or as individual prints for $1500 or $3000 each, depending on size. The other two images are $4000 (24×36) and $6000 (44×81) each. Since this is Tate’s first solo show in New York, it should come as no surprise that his work has little or no secondary market history; as such, gallery retail will be the best option for those collectors interested in following up.