Nico Krijno, Leave Your Body Behind @Elizabeth Houston

JTF (just the facts): A total of 7 black and white and color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space. All of the works are inkjet prints on photorag paper, made in 2014 or 2018. Physical sizes range from roughly 26×30 to 28×33 inches (or reverse), and all of the works are available in editions of 3+1AP. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: The studio installation that is painstakingly constructed solely to be photographed has become a common entry point for many contemporary photographers. Whether built at the scale of a table top or an entire room, these sculptural arrangements are then made even more visually perplexing by a variety of photographic, optical, and seemingly magical techniques.

Some employ multiple exposures; others use mirrors and glass to play with reflection and transparency; still others explore how cast light and shadow activate their constructions; and some combine physical construction with rephotography, bringing paper prints back into the mix. Each approach (whether rigorously controlled or loosely improvisational) ends up exploring the image/object dichotomy of photography in its own way, creating illusions and visual misdirection that keep us looking, as we try to puzzle through just what is going on.

The South African photographer Nico Krijno is yet another practitioner exploring the possibilities of this kind of hand-crafted picture making. Krijno’s choice of materials (in the works on view) is relatively straightforward: painted plywood boards, cut pieces of granite and marble, clear plastic boxes and stackable units, and wood veneer. He then piles these objects into dense conglomerations, adding paint, making cutouts, spraying them with water, and lighting them with colored tints. The results are satisfyingly dizzying, with planes overlapping, intersecting, and interleaving in unexpected and uncertain ways.

But this is by no means the end of Krijno’s process; in fact, it is just the beginning. Using the original image as a template, he then digitally manipulates the compositions, pushing the confusing but possible setups toward the realm of the pleasingly impossible. Digital cutouts and duplications are layered and relayered, making backdrops inconclusive and collaging towers of objects with deliberate instability. His digital mark making isn’t meant to be entirely invisible; like Lucas Blalock, he is allowing us to see some of his sleight of hand, which creates heightened dissonance with our expectations for how the pictures are supposed to behave.

While the Cubists famously made images that tried to capture the visual essence of a world filled with simultaneous multiplicity, Krijno’s images don’t follow that conceptual path. Instead they undermine our sense of visual certainty or time-based logic, allowing conflicting physical realities to live inside one composite. In Veneer Wood Wood, curling strips of veneer interlock into a swirling nest of ribbons and their shadows, digitally blending vantage points that defy the laws of physics but seem to shift with energetic vitality. Composition with Painted Wood does something similar with wooden pallets, the slatted rectangles tossed into a floating bundle that is rooted in an initial construction and then exploded into an exercise in gravity- and light source-defying recombination. And in Bricolage with Granite and Marble, Krijno edges toward more traditional collage, using shaped additions of digital rock to augment his actual physical stacking.

Krijno’s images are most engaging when his spatial tinkering is so thoroughly integrated that it gets beyond trickery and digital play and becomes something more deliberate and essential. Redefining the foundation ideas of a photographic instant and a single perspective are challenges worth pushing on harder, and the more he works to collapse (or renegotiate) these invisible aesthetic definitions, the more radical and durably intriguing his pictures will be.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $4300 each. Krijno’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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JTF (just the facts): Published by Aperture in 2024 (here). Softcover with dust jacket (17 x 22.5 cm), 124 pages, with 80 color and black-and-white reproductions. Includes a conversation between ... Read on.

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