JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in the small single room gallery space and the entry area. All of the works are archival inkjet prints, made in 2015 and 2016. Physical sizes range from roughly 11×9 to 56×44 (or reverse), and all of the prints are available in editions of 2+2AP. The show also includes 1 inkjet print on fabric, hung across the interior doorway. This work is sized roughly 123×72, and was made in 2016. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili’s new show at Andrea Rosen’s smaller second space feels emblematic of a classic artistic tale – a younger photographer actively engaging the front burner issues of the day, working through various exercises and experiments in search of her own durable entry point into the conversation. In Alexi-Meskhishvili’s case, she has spread her wings widely, diving into the interplay of analog/digital and found/created, the investigation of tactile surface and object qualities, the process-centric management of light and transparency, and even the channeling of past masters to reinterpret their styles in contemporary contexts. As a result, her intimate show runs in many directions at once, these separate lines of thinking extending out with energetic curiosity.
The largest works on view all revolve around the many properties of light. Alexi-Meskhishvili uses photogram-style cutouts and stencils to interact with gestural light leaks, where layers of filtered rephotography collapse into one flat plane of saturated color – in one work, white dots and wispy curves lie atop electric pink, while in another, a crumpled foundation bubbles up underneath wandering yellow, the surface interrupted by scratches and cuts. This same yellow is then echoed in a fabric curtain that covers the lone doorway in the gallery, playing with the notion of transparency and ephemeral substrates. And a stlll life image of a blue Edvard Munch catalog brings the light idea full circle back to straight representation, its faded edges bleached by the sun like a photogram.
Many of the smaller works on view dig deeper into layers and surfaces, all the while the black edges of an analog film holder playing with our perception of the processes at work. Scrapes and incised lines interrupt airbrushed flames and garden roses, bringing our attention away from their details and to the tactile paper of the photograph itself. Layered images play with other shifting depths, from the sculpted lines of a combed hairstyle floating underneath the glare of a magazine page to the reflection of a mirror within a symphony of white surfaces. Each offers the sense of Alexi-Meskhishvili trying to break down flatness and introduce uncertainty.
Three images reach back into the photographic past for inspiration. Using nudes by Lee Friedlander, Francesca Woodman, and Robert Mapplethorpe as templates, Alexi-Meskhishvili reinterprets their poses and aesthetic ideas within the context of her own investigations. There is an across the frame wire interruption (Friedlander), an up close study of the texture of lightly imprinted skin (Woodman), and a muscular extended arm echo reversed by gender (Mapplethorpe), each an homage and a starting point, a lesson learned and something new.
While this show feels diversely testing at the start, by the end, those disparate threads start to converge and coalesce, as conceptual ideas and process approaches are repeated across various studies. Alexi-Meskhishvili’s confidence comes through in this complex brocade of techniques. Her show signals that she is thoroughly aware of both the past and present in photography, and willing to develop an original combination of the two to discover her own artistic white space.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The larger prints range from $13500 to $19500, while the smaller prints range from $3000 to $4200. Since this is Alexi-Meskhishvili’s first solo show in New York, her work has little secondary market history. As such, gallery retail remains the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.