Photo II @Transmitter

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing a total of 17 photographs by 4 different artists/photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space.

The following photographers have been included in the show, with the number of works on view, along with the relevant processes, dates, and other print information as background:

  • Eli Durst: 3 archival pigment prints, 2015, 2016, each sized 24×30, in editions of 4
  • Lindsay Metivier: 6 archival inkjet prints, 2014, 2015, 2016, sized either 10×8 or 20×16, in editions of 5
  • Erin O’Keefe: 5 archival pigment prints, 2013, 2016, each sized 20×16, in editions of 3
  • Irina Rozovsky: 3 archival inkjet prints, 2015-2016, each 33×24, in editions of 4

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: As the gallery model has gotten more and more skewed upward toward the most bankable artists and the biggest spaces, one of the overlooked casualties of this ongoing consolidation has been the marginalization of the early stage shows that give photographers a place to get started or an opportunity to display fresh work. While the summer group show is a staple on the annual calendar, such exhibits are often thematic, offering a new photographer a shot at just one image among many, making it hard to communicate much about his or her artistic point of view. The three or four photographer gathering show is a much better vehicle for learning about new voices and projects, but sadly, these shows are few and far between these days, which is exactly why Photo II caught my eye.

Curatorially, this exhibit is deliberately loose, allowing the simple gathering of different contemporary working styles to connect the included artists. In this case, that openness gives the show’s participants some room to let their alternate approaches expand and interact, the sum of the parts reminding us of a few of the pathways forward that current photographers are using to cement their own styles.

Erin O’Keefe is likely the best known of the photographers included in this show, her recent work making the rounds of a 2015 solo show (at Denny Gallery, reviewed here) and few group efforts. O’Keefe uses table top constructions to interrogate photographic seeing, exploring the uncertainty of flatness, distortion, and other optical effects. Her abstract images play with the geometries of clear Plexiglas sheets, investigating the additive properties of color and shadow and bringing architectural precision to her studies of space. Other works use color gradients and twisted perspectives to unpack the camera’s tendency to collapse what is placed before it, creating compositions that cascade and confuse. And a recent image, Book of Days #11, introduces more gestural forms into her visual vocabulary, building overlapped compositions that consciously intermingle figure/ground and allowing more jittering interaction. As a group, the works ask smart questions about the opportunities and limits of photographic vision.

Lindsay Metivier applies a related kind of photographic sight to the world around her, using the act of framing to isolate found details and direct attention toward tightly seen observations. The bent undulations of fire warped window blinds and the angular cast shadows across a restaurant booth are both reduced to exercises in pattern and linear repetition, while a rust dappled cartoon woman from an advertisement and the indented, sun reddened skin of recently swimsuited back each consider the surface textures of skin. Metivier’s strongest image finds the edge of ambiguous discomfort, where a discarded bloody thumbnail is caught mid-flight. While found oddities are a popular entry point for many photographers, Metivier’s choices hint at an affinity for the uncertainty of the quietly surreal and the damaged.

Irina Rozovsky pushes this mood a few steps further in her recent works taken in the former Yugoslavia, turning it into something closer to understated war torn estrangement. Her pictures offer subtle scenes of dissonance, where a young boy plays with two enormous snakes, a toothy dog is caged behind bars and chain link (its frosty breath dissolving amid leaks of light), and flowers are placed in a makeshift display of plastic bottle vases atop a shiny car hood. All three images have an undercurrent of struggle, where circumstances a bit off kilter lead to a pervasive sense of uneasiness.

Eli Durst’s black and white images also traffic in nuances of subdued strangeness, his pictures of groups and gatherings edging toward an aesthetic similar to the synthesized unreality of Jeff Wall. Boy Scouts pledge fidelity and allegiance with three fingered salutes, a self help group watches as its leader begins some kind of oddall spinning therapy, and a conference table lies empty after a group meeting, a single apple sitting in the center of the glare like a prize without a winner. Even though Durst’s images are straight, they feel stagey, and that push and pull gives them richness.

Hung together, these works offer plenty of resonance and thoughtful commonality. Each artist is coming at the problem of the veracity of photographic vision from one angle or another, wanting us to look harder and see the inconsistencies and unresolved questions that lie both in plain sight and just under the surface. This is in many ways a contested version of what was once photography, its agreed upon truths now consciously thrown open for interpretation and speculation. Group shows like this one point out a thread of invisible momentum of contemporary photography, where deliberate doubt and obscurity creep into the guiding mindset, giving us pictures that resist easy contemplation.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows, by photographer:

  • Eli Durst: $2000 each
  • Lindsay Metivier: $900 or $1800 each, based on size
  • Erin O’Keefe: $2800, $3050, $3150, or $4150
  • Irina Rozovsky: $1600 each

None of these photographers has much in the way of secondary market history, so gallery retail or direct connection with the artist likely remain the best options for those collectors interested in follow up.

Read more about: Eli Durst, Erin O'Keefe, Irina Rozovsky, Lindsay Metivier, Transmitter

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2016 by Ediciones Anómalas (here), copublished with Comunidad de Madrid. Hardcover with embossed, two sided jacket, 88 pages, with 39 black and white reproductions. Includes ... Read on.

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