Vera Lutter, Venice I @Yancey Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 6 black and white images, framed in white with no mat, and hung in the small Project Gallery at the back. All of the prints are selenium toned gelatin silver prints, each 25×21, from 2007. The works have been grouped together as a portfolio, entitled Venice I, with a case and a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Vera Lutter has consistently produced images of different sizes in working with her now familiar and easily recognizable camera obscura process. Most of her images are extremely large scale (often diptychs or triptychs, almost mural sized), made in shipping containers or large rooms, capturing wide vistas of layered cities and dense industrial zones. A handful of her other works are more intimate, capturing details and more closely cropped views of these same places. This show is made up of a portfolio of these smaller pictures from her recent visits to Venice, where Lutter’s conceptual aesthetic has taken the warm romance of famous city and turned it into a ghostly parade of Italian architecture.

While there are a number of towers, colonnades and ornate domes on display here, reversed out with bright white doors and windows and an inky black sky, I found the ethereal images of canal boats, gondolas, and dock areas to be the most striking. Wooden posts stick up out of the water like matchsticks, and the boats float in an indistinct haze on the tactile surface of the slowly moving water. The gondolas are so blurred they are like an airy memory, delicate and wispy, just an inexact hint of their real selves.

What I like best about Lutter’s approach here is her ability to make us see her subjects with new eyes. Indeed, what could be more overworked and cliche than the canals and towers of Venice. And yet, in her images, Venice is an otherworldly place, drained of its wondrous life, vacant of its bustling throngs, threatening to dissolve into nothingness or transform itself into something far darker. This town overrun by tourists suddenly has a witchy spirit, something a bit mysterious and chilling.

Collector’s POV: The six images of Venice in this show are being sold together as a single portfolio for $35000. Lutter is represented in New York by Gagosian Gallery (here). Her work has become generally available in the secondary markets in recent years, ranging in price between $7000 and $85000, mostly dependent on size. We own one of her smaller images of the Pepsi-Cola sign (here).

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Exhibit: Gagosian Beverly Hills, 2009 (here)
  • Review: LA Times Culture Monster (here)

Vera Lutter, Venice I
Through July 9th

Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

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