JTF (just the facts): A total of 8 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the small, single room gallery space. All of the works are archival pigment prints, made in 2015 and 2016. Physical sizes are either 15×12 (in editions of 2+1AP) or 30×24 (in editions of 3+1AP) (or reverse). A small booklet with reproductions of the works and a short explanatory essay by the artist is available from the gallery. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Scott Alario’s newest photographs find him extending his black and white exploration of childhood play and domestic family life into the realm of manufactured color. Building on the multiple exposure techniques he used to create elusive mystery and imaginary movement in his previous show (here), he’s embraced a painstaking method for generating color here, allowing the gaps and time variations in that methodical process to create serendipitous wonder in his pictures.
Alario’s new photographs are effectively digital sandwiches, where a series of black and white exposures are used to simulate full color. Tri-color red, green, and blue filters are sequentially placed over his lens, and the resulting images are then combined to generate a full color palette. This same process (or variations on it) have recently been used by Florian Maier-Aichen in his broad Swiss landscapes upended by shimmers of off-register color and by Jessica Eaton in her floral still lifes constructed with deliberate mismatches of exposure filter and output color. The technique brings a sense of hand crafted process to the creation of photographic color, allowing its component parts to be unpacked and reassembled in new and unexpected ways.
Passing time and the resulting imperceptible shifts of light that occur in the elapsed moments between exposures are what gives Alario’s images their wispy magic. Using a fixed camera position, the three single color exposures generally line up for still life subjects like a fork of star shaped pasta or pink rock candy encrusted on a stick – the colors largely appear “normal” when they are put together. But even in these unmoving scenarios, light wreaks havoc with the sandwiched outcomes – the smoky steam rising off the pasta becomes a rainbow swirl of intertwined mist like an animated fairy spell, while the dappled light across the white backdrop of the rock candy undulates from soft blue green to peachy yellow. In the few seconds while the filters are being changed, these objects are seemingly taking on new personalities, breathing before our very eyes.
In the situations when there is more movement in the frame, the separated colors become more wildly misaligned and the overall effect is more gleefully off kilter. Neon green automotive coolant pours into an engine, falling from a plastic jug that has jittered into candy-colored echoes of itself in pink, purple, and green. The swing of a pair of swimming pool flippers creates the same dilations, the traditional blue leaving behind auras of pink and yellow. A rising (or perhaps falling) backyard play tent changes colors in stages, moving from blue at its height to a kaleidoscope of pink, green, and yellow as it crumples. And a joyful cheer for My Little Pony cartoons turns a pair of outstretched arms into an octopus-like gathering of six limbs, the simple turn of his daughter’s head becoming a contagiously ecstatic shout of approval.
What’s refreshing is that Alario’s use of the tri-color process doesn’t seem rooted in a conceptual investigation of color theory or technical nuances. Instead, he’s using it as a way to intentionally undermine the static nature of a single image, introducing both chance occurrences and time slippage into his storytelling. And as a result, there is a thoughtful innocence to the free-wheeling color that might not be the same had he opted for a more cerebral approach. He’s embraced the glorious accidents that come with the territory, and deftly merged them directly into his playful aesthetic. There is something inherently childlike about the sparkling colors of a rainbow, and Alario has found a way to incorporate the effervescent energy of that optimism into his pictures.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced in rising editions. The 15×12 work starts at $850, while the 30×24 prints start at $2200. Alario’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.