JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against almond colored walls in the main gallery space and the smaller side room. All of the works are chromogenic prints with added tinsel, carpet thread, Swarovski crystals, or sequins, made between 2004 and 2012. Physical dimensions range from roughly 8×10 to 40×60 and each work is unique. This is the artist’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: My first reaction to Sissi Farassat’s show was that it announced the arrival of photographic bling. Her casual snapshot-style photographs are densely encrusted with crystals, sequins, and other sparkly things, grabbing your attention with their flash and daring you to look away from their glamour. They initially seemed pretty and vacuously decorative, especially the ones covered in happy colorful polka dots.
But as I circled the gallery, I started to see what Farassat was doing was not some over-the-top exercise in inane craftiness, but instead an investigation of the boundaries of photographic surface and texture. Her clear sequins let the background show through while breaking it up into overlapping round bits; one might even call it analog pixelization. When the sequins are opaque (in shiny black and silver), the backgrounds are completely obscured, leaving cut out women to pose against swirling Starry Night whorls of geometric complexity. And when the sequins are used in complementary shades of color (greens and blues in one work), the circles crowd into competing bubbles.
Farassat employs carpet threads with equal grace. White fibers act like transparent gauzy lace, echoing a female form silhouetted against a light filled window; those same tiny strands are then transformed into a soft snowstorm when placed over a long dark coat. Green fibers over a garden scene add a layer of wispy, prickly texture, like blowing, scattered evergreen needles. These images are crisp and photographic, but somehow also mysterious and sculptural at the same time. The additions are well integrated and expanding, rather than simply glued on for extra obvious dazzle.
The idea that photographs can have unexpected surface, and that that surface can be augmented and disrupted is exciting. The trick for Farassat will be to consistently find methods and materials that do this in ways that are challenging and surprising rather than cloying and heavy handed. The best of the works on view here prove that she’s headed off in an original direction.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $7500 and $18500, based on size and applied material. Farassat’s works have very little secondary market history in the US (there have been a handful of sales in the Austrian auction houses), so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.