Julio Grinblatt: Pasillos @Minus Space

JTF (just the facts): A total of 40 black and white photographs, hung unframed against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminum, made between 1997 and 2003. Each is sized roughly 1×2 (on 10×8 paper) and is available in an edition of 7+3AP or 6+2AP. (Installation shots below. The tiny physical size of the prints frustrated our ability to get crisp individual images, so as a result, the selection of single images shown below were drawn from the gallery’s website.)

Comments/Context: Ever since Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and other members of the Düsseldorf school started experimenting with monumental, as-big-as-a-painting, wall-filling scale, the whole issue of physical size in photography has become an active point of discussion. In the subsequent decades, it seems as if the entire contemporary community has gotten on a fast-moving escalator, with those who previously limited themselves to intimate prints slowly exploring bigger images, and those who already had an affinity for larger sizes consciously pushing the limits of what could be produced by start-of-the-art printing technologies. For many, especially those catering to the tastes of contemporary art collectors, bigger became (and to a large extent still is) better.

This prevailing trend makes Julio Grinblatt’s project Pasillos all the more remarkable. Grinblatt has printed his black and white images at roughly the size of two standard postage stamps placed side by side (or about 1×2 inches), making them all but indecipherable from any distance beyond nose-to-the-frame. Standing in the center of the gallery, his prints look like a frieze of small dots, or an insistent, rhythmic Morse Code heartbeat that circles the walls. Only when we engage the prints with attention and care do they resolve into something identifiable, in this case, a series of straight-on architectural views of empty corridors.

Like many photographic taxonomies and typologies, Grinblatt’s pictures are executed with meticulous rigor, each scene precisely centered, with angled lines of perspective converging in the middle. Hotel hallways, subway escalators, office cubicles, parking garages, elevator doors, and other public spaces provide Grinblatt with a seemingly endless stream of faceless locations that he has carefully organized into the strict geometries of lines. Like the cinematography in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining or in pretty much any movie directed by Wes Anderson, the space is highly ordered and squared off, creating formal tunnel effects and telescoping frames within frames.

This reduction of space into form is in essence an exercise in control. By imposing a specific orientation on the view in front of the camera, its structure becomes the central subject. What’s fascinating is that by seeing these numbingly boring places in this way, Grinblatt has unlocked their elegance, and by forcing us to see them through the keyhole of their small size, he infuses these humble hallways and corridors with a kind of magic. While Grinblatt isn’t the first to make these kinds of one-point perspective-centric pictures, their presentation as miniatures gives them an engaging mystery, each scene like a hidden secret to be discovered.

The durably memorable aspect of this project is the unlikely intimacy Grinblatt’s approach brings to these forgettable locations. The shadowy emptiness of his deserted corridors may evoke loneliness, desolation, or even menace (depending on your mindset), but the personal interaction with these elementally simple lines somehow feels new each time, the formal repetitions given vitality by the deliberately diminutive size of the images.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. Individual prints are priced between $2000 and $4000, while the entire 40-image set is available for $40000. Grinblatt’s work has little secondary market history art this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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