JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 large scale color photographs, framed in white/blond wood and unmatted, and hung or displayed on the ground in the entry area, the main gallery space, and one of the smaller back rooms. 10 of the works are chromogenic prints from the series Riffs on Real Time, sized 40×30 and made in 2013 (no edition information was provided). 2 of the works are larger digital chromogenic prints in custom maple frames from the series Still Life, sized 49×60 and made in 2012 or 2013 (again with no edition details). The final photographic work is a floral lithograph on paper, sized 11×11, from 2013. The exhibit also includes two fabricated wall sections leaning against architectural elements of the gallery space. (Installation shots below, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York)
Comments/Context: Leslie Hewitt’s Riffs of Real Time series fits squarely into the current trend of archival investigation, probing both how the meaning of a photograph changes over time and how its physical manifestation makes it an object. Her cerebral artworks feel like rebuses, where time has erased some of the critical pieces of information required to actually solve the puzzle.
Shot top-down on her wooden studio floor, her flattened assemblages of photographic material (including books, magazines pages, snapshots, and even some computer code printouts) are arranged with strict geometrical order, layering smaller rectangles atop larger ones and creating a telescoping framed effect. Her rigid juxtapositions hint at connections and echoes, but her intentions are ultimately unknowable; perhaps there is a elusive link over time or some tenuous cause and effect relationship that we can’t quite grasp. In some combinations, the pairing seems apt – a dark apartment window sits atop endless rows of suburban housing and a battleship at sea straddles an image of a city street in flames. In others, the connections seem more abstract – a snapshot of the reflecting pool at the Martin Luther King Jr. center set against the plain blue of a clothbound book or a family seated around a card table flanked by lines of software code. The controlled balance of her compositions creates an environment where the photographs and ephemera seem to float and merge, like flip book pages seen one after another. Hewitt’s larger works introduce the element of physical space into the equation, where a square slab of wood perches precariously atop a stack of books, alternately decorated by a lemon and a small river snapshot. These photographs lean out from the walls, echoing the angles seen in the image and creating a sculptural doubled effect.
In the end, these works left me with more questions than answers, their enigmas too ephemeral for me to always follow completely. But perhaps that is the point: when separated from their original context, these found photographs and loose materials can offer us only a partial set of conclusions. As artists like Hewitt mine these photographic archives and recombine them in new forms, their foundations and memories are slowly pulled apart, becoming ghosts of their former selves and fragmentary raw material for new visions.
Collector’s POV: The photographic works in this show are priced as follows. The 40 x 30 images from Riffs on Real Time are $15,000 each, while the larger leaning Still Life pieces are $25,000. Hewitt has very little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.