JTF (just the facts): A total of 18 large scale photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung in the entry gallery, the hallway, and the main gallery space in the back. 13 of the works are archival pigment prints, unframed and mounted on Diasec, and made between 2009 and 2012. These prints are sized 67×55 or reverse and are available in editions of 5+2AP. The show also includes 5 smaller archival pigment prints, framed in black and unmatted, and made in 2011. These prints are sized 14×13 and are also available in editions of 5+2AP. A monograph of this body of work was recently published by Hatje Cantz (here). This is Luoma’s first solo show in the United States. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: “Drawing with light” is one of those overly mystical honeyed chestnuts I associate with bad writing about photography. But in the case of Finnish photographer Niko Luoma, drawing with light may indeed be an apt description of what he is actually doing. Using an entirely analog process, he methodically exposes his negatives to hundreds of individual lines of light, building up dense thickets of pulsing linear abstraction. His works have faint echoes of Minimalism, iteratively evolved into compositions brimming with futuristic energy.
The smaller works displayed in the hallway of the gallery have the most direct connection to a familiar Minimalist aesthetic. Thin almost invisible white lines arrange themselves with mathematical precision against a dark black background, becoming intimate arrays of horizontal and vertical stripes. It’s easy to see a conceptual kinship with Frank Stella’s black paintings or with Agnes Martin’s delicate strips and bands.
Luoma’s larger works are presented as glossy objects, scaled up in wall power and intensity. Straight school bus yellow lines radiate outward from a criss-crossed center and circular black swirls overlap into a bird’s nest of interlocked basket weave curves. Most of the works play on ram rod straight horizontals and verticals, piled up and layered into symmetrical thatched rectangles and woven angled patterns. Their color is pure and electric, almost as if it is backlit or lasered, from blinding monochrome contrast to intense multicolored lines in rainbow hues. The works feel modern and machined, like the output of code running open loop or a controlled, systematized process that has been allowed to wander.
I think Luoma’s brand of geometric abstraction is full of freshness and vitality. His lines flutter and palpitate with a precise cadence, drawing the viewer into their seemingly endless mathematical repetitions. And it is this mix of brashness and order that gives them their originality and punch, keeping them from becoming something we have seen before.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The large 67×55 prints are $17000 each, and the smaller 14×13 prints are $6500 each. These prices represent a small bump up from prices I have encountered at recent art fairs. Luoma’s work is not yet consistently available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is still likely the best option for those collectors interested in following up.