Not A Photo
312 Bowery, New York 10012
November 29, 2015-January 16, 2016
Not a Photo looks at the way artists are using photography today, not as a final product but rather as a tool or step in a multi-media process. As photography has moved away from its original scope of documentation, it has taken on many new roles. Everyone is now an amateur photographer wielding iPhones so to reflect on life today an artist might need to go past this easy documentary use. The constant presence and comprehensiveness of digital imaging makes it hard to exhibit a interesting digital image. The functionality of a digital image opens up the field of art across media to a new range of opportunities and concerns.
Many artists in Not a Photo include photography as one of the steps in their creative process; but they don’t stop there. Ry David Bradley composes digitally evocative images and prints them as dye transfer onto texturized synthetic suede. The “paintings” are then installed like screens on photographic equipment like ceiling mounts, tripods or flat-screen hardware, giving the works the drama of a photo shoot. For other artists, photos become objects—Letha Wilson transfers emulsion photography onto concrete, Kate Bonner on shaped panel, Rachel de Joode onto PVC in anthropomorphic postures evocative of a disfigured Bacon perched on a stool; Adam Parker Smith prints a woman’s photo onto canvas and gives her a long blond human hair blowing in an electric fan breeze.
Other works in the show are about digital photography as a genre and what people like to use it for. In Mark Flood’s TOP KEK piece, revolting memes are collected and printed on canvas where the text has been changed to a series of equally disgusting instructions on how to be a successful artist. Ryder Ripps exhibits a painting from a series of works about a particularly awful Instagram account of a self-help fitness model where he digitally manipulates her selfies and renders them in paint. These distortions evoke early experiments in warping emulsion photography from the 1930s, while capturing the particularly contemporary kind of mise en abyme of getting lost in the horrors of Instagram, a hall of mirrors made of selfies. Some artworks in Not A Photo literally blend photography and painting, as in the works of Wil Murray and Matthew Stone.