This exhibition of unique photo-based objects is based primarily on works from the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Collection. Although the medium of photography is characterized by its ability to reproduce multiples of the same image, the artists in One have all manipulated or subverted the medium to create unique handmade objects. Many of the works in the exhibition resemble painting or craft and explore ideas that transcend the traditional roles and functions of the photographic image.
Works by Chris McCaw, Mariah Robertson, Joseph Minek, and Christopher Russell use processes and tools that were originally designed for objective representation as means to create personal and emotional gestures that reveal the handmade process to the viewer. McCaw unleashes the violence of the western sun to scorch its path across the sky of radically overexposed landscapes. A 130-inch abstract painting in toxic color photochemistry unfurls in Robertson’s abstract expressionist scroll. Minek creates highly disciplined abstractions by substituting the manufacturer’s instructions with his own processes. Russell inscribes the surface of color abstractions with figurative etchings, reversing the traditional roles of photography and drawing.
Photographers have always selectively revealed or concealed our world by placing a frame around their view. Kyle Meyer and Wilmer Wilson IV focus on the surface of the image as opposed to its edges as a way of editing our view. Meyer’s portraits of people from the LGBTQ community in Swaziland celebrate their individuality and culture while protecting their identities by weaving the cloth props used in their portraits together with the photographic print to create a new “fabric.” Wilson enlarges found flyers broadsides from neighborhoods in Washington, DC, and reposts them covered with swirls of staples, obscuring and revealing the images beneath and transforming them into bulletins of both freedom and oppression.
Sam Falls, Liz Rideal, Lauren Davies and Nobutaka Aozaki create unique works that stretch the limits of the photographic image beyond representation to the conceptual. Falls challenges tropes of art making by mixing conventions of commercial “product photography” with printmaking and painting. Aozaki also uses the language of commercial photography to illustrate found shopping lists in a way that gives the viewer an open-ended and slightly voyeuristic look into the lives of strangers. Davies creates a mash-up between the photographed subject and the sculptural object and complicates the relationship between the real and the artificial. The dime-store photo booth is appropriated by Rideal to activate still lifes of tulips that both recall Dutch still lifes and modernistic grids.
At a time when many art experiences have been forced online and on-screen, all the works shown in One celebrate the importance of the physical art object, bearing the marks and gestures of the hand and mind of the artist in the physical world.
This exhibition was organized by Transformer Station with support in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.