Mariah Robertson, I Am Passions @Marvelli

JTF (just the facts): A total of 17 works, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the single room main gallery space. There are 3 gelatin silver prints, 7 c-prints, and 7 photograms; all of the prints are unique (not editioned). Sizes range from approximately 14×11 to 56×48; many are 24×20. All of the works were made in 2009 and are untitled. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: For the taxonomists and list makers out there, it is clear that one large wing of the world of contemporary photography can be labeled “process”; under this title would fall all of the photographers who have dug into any number of image making techniques and explored the edges of what the old school combination of light and chemicals can produce. Under “process”, we might further divide the huge pile into those who are interested in photograms, or camera obscura images, or collaged found images, or multiple negatives, or chemical chance and manipulation in the darkroom (and on and on from there).
Mariah Robertson is yet another young photographer who has looked deeper into process, but she is the first that I have come across who has really destroyed the physical boundaries of these individual technical disciplines and mashed them together in single, densely layered almost sculptural works. Working on long rolls of paper (that are later roughly cut apart), she alternates between contact printing, enlargements, and photograms, one on top of the other, with the chemicals that underpin each one mixing together in an unexpected stew.
The works in the show offer a theme and variation experience; certain motifs arise again and again, in different combinations and colors: 3D cubes, boxes, grids and other 80s era computer graphics (some apparently drawn from quilt patterns), silhouetted palm trees and leaves, and rephotographed male nudes. These subject matter themes are then mixed with saturated colors and chemical drips to generate contrasts, irregularities, and filters. There are certainly parallels here to Robert Rauschenberg’s use of silkscreening and additional over painting to get his collaged combines; the processes in this case are variously photographic, but the strata of juxtaposed symbols are related.
For works like these, the question then becomes: did the string of chance elements and image snippets somehow come together into something visually striking and thought provoking? I think the answer is “sometimes”; for the best of the experiments, the overlapping layers of imagery create striking patterns from afar and still work as interconnected all-over collages up close. In others, the randomness is more chaotic and the relationships between objects is more obscure; the “artfulness” trumps the content. It will be interesting to see where these processes take Robertson in the future, as she seems to be standing amidst the rubble of the broken walls between long discrete approaches to photographic picture making.
Collector’s POV: The prints in the show are priced between $2400 and $7500 based on size, with many at $3000. This is Robertson’s first show with Marvelli Gallery; she was previously represented by Guild & Greyshkul, which is now closed. Her work has not yet made it to the secondary markets in any real way, so gallery retail will be the only follow-up option for interested collectors.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: Artforum (here, scroll down), NY Times (here, scroll down)

Mariah Robertson, I am Passions
Through November 14th
Marvelli Gallery
526 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001

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  1. Anonymous /

    I'd just like to add that the male nudes are not re-photographed…and to say thank you to the many wonderful and patient art models on craigslist!

  2. dlkcollection /


    Glad you found the review. I thought the nudes looked like found images, so I assumed they were rephotographed. Thanks for the clarification!

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