JTF (just the facts): A total of 3 large scale photographic works, framed in custom oak and unmatted, and hung in the small single room gallery space. All of the works are c-prints with additional mixed media elements, made in 2012. Each of the prints is sized 60×44 and is unique. The show also includes 2 twisted metal sculptures, shown on white pedestals near the front window. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Ever since Marcel Duchamp took an ordinary white porcelain urinal, turned it upside down, painted a fictitious name on it, and boldly stated it was art, the readymade object has been part of the artistic conversation. Fast forward a century, overwhelm our society with consumer goods, and flood us with overly perfect digital imagery, and the time has certainly come for an exploration of the “Internet readymade”. Kate Steciw’s new works dive down this dark rabbit hole, combining manipulated image data and found objects into three dimensional abstractions brimming with vitality.
The three works on display in this show all begin with commercial stock photography as source material. These images are flashy and eye catching, full of saturated professional color, soulless and yet somehow with a point of view that says these unblemished manufactured things ought to be of interest to you. Steciw has taken these photographs and thrown them into the digital blender, twisting and stretching, interleaving and swirling, recombining and reassembling with facile skill, ending with fluidly chaotic flat abstractions that nearly defy identification: a bright yellow egg mixes with a fitness machine, orange fire blends with pipe fittings, and watery blue textiles intermingle with bubbled glass. These compositions are then decorated with seemingly random objects, which have been stuck directly onto the print and its frame. I can just image the AI code out in the cloud churning out the recommendations: “if you like these opalescent glass pebbles, you might also like this blue painter’s tape!” or “if you like these faux marble tiles, you should try this adhesive gauze bandage!” I’m sure that there is some hidden logic connecting all these sculptural and collage items, and yet the puzzling mystery of the Infidel decal in Arabic, the cartoon horse sticker, and the Mason symbol seems oddly appropriate in our opaquely complex digital age.
I think these works place Steciw in a different category than the countless digital image appropriators and manipulators at work today; I think she is coming from a different conceptual place. She’s way out on the edge where the photographs have become cold objects and the digital transformations have become a dance recognizable to the computer savvy. She’s playing with both virtual and physical space, with texture and surface, the stock photographs and the other accoutrements abstracted and yet still somewhat representative of their original selves. It’s a new aesthetic, with new associations, firmly rooted in our ever evolving Internet reality.
Collector’s POV: The 3 mixed media prints in this exhibit are priced at $6500 each. Steciw’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the best option for those collectors interested in following up.