curated by Lesley A. Martin
June 12 – July 18, 2010
The ten artists presented in Either/And, Part I: The New Skew propose a variety of idiosyncratic, skewed takes on photography. In doing so, they share a critical engagement with the accepted conventions of genre, series making, and photographic seeing.
Take, for example, the work of Erica Allen and Gabriel Garcia Roman. The subjects in Allen’s images feel strangely familiar, but ultimately reject identification. As the artist describes, they are “fictional portraits created using anonymous faces from contemporary barbershop hairstyle posters combined with figures from discarded studio portraits.” Garcia Roman’s portraits, on the other hand, initially seem more decorative than substantive—yet, closer observation of each portrait reveals childhood memories in the form of personal photographs that have been woven into the semi-psychedelic backgrounds.
Then there is Rachel Bee Porter, who uses visual hyperbole to “pervert the language of commercial and editorial photography.” She finds a comrade in Amy Stevens’ manic cake décor—Martha Stewarts run gleefully amok! These are the characteristics common to all the artists in this group: the use of eye-catching, graphic surfaces and known forms that belie their true intent; plus a sly resistance to or inversion of established modes (of portraiture, as in the case of Allen and Garcia Roman; or of commercial still-life as seen in the works of Porter and Stevens).
Following in that vein, Sarah Palmer, Sam Falls, and Jordan Tate all forego traditional expectations of stylistic coherency in favor of situational aesthetics—each image is rendered without privileging any single style over others. Palmer and Falls in particular create work that is highly personal while also hyper-conscious of both the failings and the possibilities of the photographic medium. Tate’s work is most expressly concerned with the variety of possible forms that photos can take today—from the humble .GIF to three-dimensional and iPhone images.
Matthew Gamber, Charles Shotwell, and Laura Wulf, each share this interest in exploring the changing forms and function of photography. Whether meditating on the the optical nature of black-and-white photography, the changing role of the printed image, or the blurred boundaries of drawing and photography, these artists flesh out a common universe of concerns for contemporary photography: where and how do we experience it? And, perhaps most pressingly, what exactly is it?
For the members of the New Skew, the external world initiates the image, but the end result is rarely just a copy; the thing is never quite itself. What is certain, throughout the work of these ten artists, is that the power of the photographic image, it’s ability to surprise and to seduce, is still very much alive.
-Lesley A. Martin, Publisher and Director of Content, Aperture Foundation
Lesley A. Martin is publisher of Aperture Foundation’s book program and director of content for the Foundation as a whole. She has edited over sixty-five books of photography, including Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer; My Life in Politics: Tim Davis; Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names by Alex Webb; Richard Misrach: On the Beach; Beate Gütschow: LS/S; Paris • New York • Shanghai by Hans Eijkelboom; and The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography by Lyle Rexer. Martin is also the coauthor of two volumes on design, Graphicscape: Tokyo and Graphicscape: New York; and a contributing editor to Full Vinyl: The Subversive Art of Designer Toys and Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ‘70s.