Image above: © Arnold Helbling, Study in Architecture # 26, 2015, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery
Images above: © Fernando Sandoval, from the opening reception
The current exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery, named after the song I am a Photograph by Amanda Lear, addresses photography without including a single photograph amongst the works of art. The exhibition instead examines the idea that photography no longer is a product, but a principle. The show includes drawings, paintings and installations by 27 artists that all actively engage with photography without having photographs as their final product.
Image above: © Frank Selby, How Green Was My Valley Was Green How, 2015 , courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery
Included in the show are Mel Bochner’s handwritten notes with famous quotes relating to photography. One is Emile Zola’s ”In my opinion, you cannot say you have thoroughly seen anything until you have a photograph of it.” Several of the exhibiting artists actually base their work off of photographs rather than real life, making the quote applicable to the exhibition at large.
Image above: © Marcin Cienski, By The Stove, 2012, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery
One example is Marcin Cienski, who uses old photographs as inspiration for his oil paintings. His works look like stills from a film offering the viewer the possibility of narrative but without actually telling a full story. Cienski’s use of light in particular is extremely realistic and instantly connotes the way light is used in photography. At the same time he is not at all a photo realist-painter but shows very visible brushstrokes in his works. He makes sure that even though his art is based on photography, it is not a copy of photographs. Another example is Jim Torok’s ”3D self”. Tiny oil paintings that are easily mistaken for photographs at first sight, but that close up show extraordinary detail. Torok paints from photographs he takes himself and in contrast to Cienski’s visible brush strokes, Torok really is imitating the real life photos. In contrast to photography, which is instant, Torok spends up to a year on a single painting.
Image above: © Mark Khaisman, Tape Noir Glimpse 47, 2012, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery
Mark Khaisman bases his work on old photography and film stills as well as his own photography. He then creates an image using packaging tape on light boxes, using the different layers of tape to manipulate the light and create photo-like images. In this way he works with changing light rather than how the photographer works with using or capturing light. At the same time there is a similarity in the process, showing how photography indeed can be applied as a principle.
Image above: © Matthew Brandt, NGC 7654, 2015, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery
Another one of Mel Bochner’s quotes is Marcel Duchamp’s ”I would like to see photography make people despise painting until something else will make photography unbearable”. Perhaps that is where we are headed today? One could argue that social media is well on its way to making photography unbearable. By doing a show on photography without any photographs, the exhibition ultimately poses the question of how photography has influenced and altered our perception.