Pello Irazu: STUDIO @Yancey Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 21 color photographs (including 1 set of 7 images), 6 sculptures, and 3 works made from tape, graphite, and paint, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls (some with red geometric designs) in the main gallery space and the smaller project room. All of the photographs have added areas of acrylic paint. Physical sizes for the photographs range from roughly 12×9 to 47×36 (or reverse), and aside from 1 group of photographs that are available in editions of 3, all of the works (made between 2011 and 2014) are unique. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: The many and often complex interactions between photography and sculpture have a long and well documented history, from commissioned photographs of famous works and in situ images of sculpture as installed, to studio constructions made to be photographed and iterative intermediate states akin to creative note taking. But given our current fascination with the mixing and extension of artistic media, it’s not at all surprising that we are seeing further innovation in the interdisciplinary combination of sculpture and photography, especially in work that pushes on the inherent visual imbalance between three dimensions and two.

Pello Irazu is predominantly known as a sculptor, and his newest works begin with physical assemblages of wood blocks, cast aluminum forms, and cardboard boxes, painted and nailed together in geometric piles or balanced on ladders and chairs in his studio. Part of what interests Irazu is the conflating of textures and surfaces, where aluminum is made to look like wood or cardboard is covered in resin; it gives his sculptures a sense of unpredictability, even in their most pared down forms.

Irazu’s photographs of these sculptures rely on the flattening power of a camera’s vision to turn the space of his studio into an additional set of geometries. Using both mirrors and overpainted areas of color (and in the case of the gallery installation itself, bright red patterns on the walls), he uses his sculptures as raw material for much more complex visual experiments, where strips of color interrupt the angles of a stack of blocks or faces of rectangular forms are relayered with new textures. Glossy areas of impenetrable black abut polygons that look convincingly like wood grain, constantly testing our sense of recognizable depth. Geometries intermingle and coalesce into a shifting tussle, where foreground and background, hand painted and photographed, jostle for dominance. With some color theory and tromp l’oeil visual uncertainty added to the mix, Irazu’s abstractions resolutely refuse to offer easy answers.

While Irazu’s works start with sculpture, it’s actually the conflict between photography and painting that provides their flash of excitement. A jumble of wood boxes on a studio chair becomes smartly puzzling when certain sides and swaths of floor come to the surface adorned like wood. Now the spatial rules have been broken, distance is no longer valid, and texture is potentially misleading. Irazu has dragged us to the unregulated intersection of sculpture, painting, and photography, and set up unbalanced situations where each medium is quietly undermined.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows. The overpainted photographs range in price from $2900 to $11000, based on size; the set of 7 images is priced at $18000. The sculptures range from $15000 to $35000, while the works made from tape, graphite, and paint are $3500 each. Irazu’s photographs have little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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