A group exhibition that investigates the relationship between sculpture and photography, and perceptual issues that are integral to those relationships. All of them invite us to imagine the relationship between space and photography. In doing so, we are rewarded with a heightened awareness of the act of looking, and the opportunity to enter a transitive, imaginative state of moving through space and time. Work by John Coplans, Leslie Hewitt, Bettina Hoffman, Melinda McDaniel, Susana Reisman, Lorna Simpson, Florian Slotowa...
curated by Karen Irvine
The Museum of Contemporary Photography opens PhotoDimensional, a group exhibition that investigates the relationship between sculpture and photography, 2-D and 3-D, and perceptual issues that are integral to those relationships. All of them invite us to imagine the relationship between space and photography. In doing so, we are rewarded with a heightened awareness of the act of looking, and the opportunity to enter a transitive, imaginative state of moving through space and time. Approximately half of the works in this exhibition are taken from the museumʼs permanent collection of over 8,500 images and objects.
In her video work La Ronde, German artist Bettina Hoffmann uses a panning video camera to give us multiple points of view on subjects who are absolutely still. The effect is one of traveling through the space of a 2-dimensional photograph; it is as if the space surrounding the subjects in a still photograph has opened up for the viewer to navigate, while the subjects themselves remain frozen in time.
Chicago artist Heather Mekkelson makes 3-dimensional sculptural objects inspired by disaster photographs. Keeping an archive of images from floods and hurricanes, Mekkelson isolates interesting details and translates them into sculptural forms that she distresses to reference the original disaster. These forms are placed around the gallery in non-literal translations of the photographs. Similarly, Katalin Deér translates photographs into sculptures and back into photographs, making multi-layered renditions of simple, modernist architecture and commonplace furniture.
Always interested in exploring identity through the instant assumptions provided by her use of visual clues, Lorna Simpson took James Van der Zeeʼs photographs as her starting point for 9 Props. Made while she was an artist-in-residence at Pilchuck, a glassblowing school in Seattle, Simpson had the artisans recreate the vases that appear in Van der Zeeʼs pictures. She then photographed the objects and later accompanied them with texts. Simpson printed the photographs and texts onto felt. By endowing the pictures with tactility and 3-dimensionality, Simpson aligns her work with the modernist concern with surface and forms.
Leslie Hewittʼs Replica is a triptych in which she turns the orientation of the images upside down to call attention to the formal qualities of the still life. In her photo-sculptural works simple events between the images register passage of time and/or possibly a human intervention: the found photograph is not upright any longer, an image behind the plant is gone, the orientation of the plant has slightly turned. Leslie pays as much attention to formal composition as to the cultural significance of the found photographs and to books she includes on the subject of African-American history.
Sculptor, architect, designer, and photographer David Irelandʼs images of the island of Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland deliberately create a distance between the viewer and the subject –– in one, an expanse of water acts as a barrier to the island, while a painted green rectangle expands the viewerʼs visual experience in a less representational sense. In the other, the viewer is distanced not only by the water-speckled glass surface between the foreground and the landscape, but also by the red spots painted on the surface of the photograph. Irelandʼs painted geometric shapes add a dynamism to the images that recalls Constructivism. Pello Irazu and Laurent Millet also combine drawing, painting, and sculpture to create the illusion of 3- dimensions on 2-dimensional surfaces.
Some of the artists in the exhibition photograph existing forms to enhance their appearance as sculptural objects. When John Coplans began photographing his aging body after he turned 60, for example, he created a set of images that evoke classical marble sculpture. His documentation of advanced age is alternately humorous, reflective, and disquieting in the closeness of its observation. Seeing himself as an actor, Coplans examines various body parts closely, often quoting art-historical postures with his sagging figure. Florian Slotawa creates makeshift sculptures with furniture in hotel rooms across Europe, documenting his interventions in black and white before he checks out of the room.
Originally trained as a sculptor, Vik Muniz uses unconventional materials, including chocolate syrup, sequins, and thread to recreate well-known works of art or images from popular culture. After he constructs his own version of their likeness, he photographs these new sculptural “drawings.” In the series Pictures of Dust, Muniz took the dust collected over several months by the maintenance staff at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and used it to create drawings based on installation photographs of the museumʼs collection of Minimal and Post-minimal sculpture. In Munizʼs photograph of Tony Smithʼs minimalist cube, the dust is easily discernable and its constituent hair, pebbles, and small scraps of paper appear larger than life. Ironically, dust is usually the nemesis of the pristine photographic print and polished sculptural surface.
Finally, Melinda McDaniel and Susana Reisman both make sculptures out of photographic materials. Reisman prints photographs onto long strips of canvas and molds the strips into forms that loosely reference the original subject matter. McDaniel exposes photographic paper to varying degrees to reveal the subtle color gradations inherent in the paperʼs chemistry, and then exhibits long strips in the gallery that reference minimalist sculpture and also the idea of the passage of time to which photography is so closely aligned.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Karen Irvine is the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago. She has organized numerous exhibitions including: Audible Imagery: Sound and Photography; Anthony Goicolea; Tracey Baran; Scott Fortino; Shirana Shahbazi: Goftare Nik/Good Words; Jason Salavon; Jin Lee; Paul Shambroom: Evidence of Democracy; Alec Soth: Sleeping by the Mississippi; The Furtive Gaze; and Camera/Action: Performance and Photography, among others. She is a part-time instructor of photography at Columbia College Chicago. She received her MFA in photography from FAMU, Prague and her MA in art history from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Image: Florian Slotawa, Hotel des Vosges, Straβburg, Zimmer 66, Nacht zum 13, Märx, 1999
Courtesy of Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago
600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago