Virginia Inés Vergara, Shards_Subduction @Robert Miller

JTF (just the facts): A total of 33 black and white photographs, framed in dark grey and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the two front rooms of the gallery. All of the works are inkjet prints, made in 2015. The works are shown in three sizes (60×40, 40×30, and 8×10 or reverse) and all of the prints are available in editions of 4. There are 3 large prints, 6 medium prints, and 24 small prints on view. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: While digital tools have made the combining of reusable imagery both trivially easy and visually seamless, this hasn’t stopped many contemporary photographers from continuing to explore the hand-crafted nature of the traditional cut paper photocollage. Often intermingling diverse found imagery with multiple layers of precise rephotography, these works have ranged in complexity from elegantly jarring juxtapositions of just a few images (like those made by John Stezaker) to much larger constructions of fragmented pieces of dozens or even hundreds of pictures (like the works of Vik Muniz, Daniel Gordon, Laura Letinsky, and others). As available imagery continues to exponentially multiply, this kind of physical engagement with pictures will likely remain a constantly renewable source of artistic innovation.

Virginia Inés Vergara’s recent additions to this genre push isolated representation toward abstraction. Starting with book plate images from art history textbooks depicting the delicate folds of carved marble drapery and wooden sculpture, she has layered handfuls of up close shards into swirling, textural interplays of light and dark. The lines of folds, crumples, and gathers pile up in competing directions, clashing and being pushed underneath each other like the geology of tectonic plates or layers of sediment. Nuances of warmth and coolness are also forced to interact, a slight pinkish hue being roughly mixed with silvery whiteness or the hint of brown from wood grain. Each image is like chaos held together for just a moment, the competing energies reluctantly coexisting.

Part of visual vibrancy of Vergara’s pictures comes from the balance of depth and flatness they explore. The carved marble seems to undulate and bend, creating hollows and troughs with shadowy subtlety, but of course these images are flat, their physicality reinforced by torn edges and small dark shadows that linger on the edges of papers. It’s as if the printed reproductions (some enlarged so they dissolve into seas of halftone dots) have been interleaved on a table top, the camera ultimately repressing them into one plane.

A few compositions seem to resolve into echoes of landscapes, like V-shaped valleys or rough mountain ranges, our eyes imposing horizons and topographies on inherently abstract combinations of form. And if we step back and look at the project more broadly, there is a sense of iteration to be followed though the series, the same slices of drapery wandering through multiple works, constantly turning and being recombined in new ways. Her pictures become a game of repeated shifts and repetitions, like a morphing loop of visual code.

There is bold energy in most of Vergara’s compositions, and that bottled pressure ensures that her works never get too dainty or precious. She’s found a way to create the appearance of conflicted forces, like the opposing push of two strong magnets, and in the best of her images, that unwilling juxtaposition leaves us with the essence of something gracefully destructive.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The 60×40 prints are $4750, the 40×30 prints are $3400, and the 8×10 prints are $1250. Vergara’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): Co-published in 2022 by 5 Continents Editions (here) and Magnin-A Gallery. Hardcover (23.5 x 31 cm), 86 pages, with 45 color illustrations. Includes essays by Renée ... Read on.

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