Luis Mallo, Interruptions @Praxis

JTF (just the facts): A total of 18 color photographs, generally framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the entry area and the main gallery space. All of the works are digital chromogenic prints, made between 2001 and 2013, from the In Camera and Interruptions series. The prints are shown in two sizes: roughly 17×21 and 23×29 (or reverse); no edition information was provided on the checklist. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: As pictorial motifs go, the consciously interrupted view is a particularly photographic creation. Starting with the simplicity of a subject seen through glass (like a window or a storefront), the genre explodes into a cacophony of visual intrusions, with telephone poles, road signs, chain link fences, and mesh screen doors creating jarring obstructions that intentionally break up camera-flattened compositions. Lee Friedlander has likely been our most celebrated and consistently aggressive photographic interrupter, but Cuban photographer Luis Mallo’s new images remind us that the field is still open for further exploration.

Mallo’s color photographs gravitate toward urban construction sites, where scaffolding, plywood, and ubiquitous orange sheeting create improvised architectural impediments that veil the surrounding activity. While a few opaque surfaces block our view entirely (forcing us to peer through cracks and over edges to glimpse at what we’re missing), Mallo seems more interested in the impact of translucent and transparent scrims, where the action behind the curtain is distorted and obscured by plastic, perforated metal, or billowing tarps, and our ability to see clearly is frustrated, bringing all over texture to the foreground.

Mallo’s squared off views also highlight a sea of found horizontal and vertical geometries, mixing up close interruptions with repeating background patterns like apartment windows or angled industrial piping, creating contrasting layers of order that conflict with each other. In his hands, a construction trailer, a group of hanging fire hoses, and a collection of New York city work permits can all disrupt (and enhance) an otherwise straightforward urban abstraction, and reflections and shadows add bends, folds, and swirls to underlying grids of rigid lines.

The continuous cycle of construction and destruction in cities across the globe provides artists like Luis Mallo with a constant stream of in progress activity to observe, and when this bustle is seen with the right eyes, that chaos can coalesce into something satisfyingly complex. While blending discrete layers into single overlapped compositions isn’t a new photographic idea, Mallo’s images repeatedly test our perception, forcing us to see interleaved spaces as more than just surfaces. The best of his works are like formal visual puzzles, where being blocked is an integral part of the exercise.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The 17×21 prints from the Interruptions series are $2900 each, while the 23×29 prints are $4000 each. One of the earlier images from the In Camera series is priced at $4500. Mallo’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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