Photography is an increasingly ambiguous and ubiquitous activity. Lingering anxiety over analog versus digital formats, combined with the growing field of image capturing tools, (scanners, webcams, screen grabs, and cell phones), fuel an ever-evolving discourse on the medium’s ontology and craft. Andrea Longacre-White’s work enters this dialog with a minimal, DIY composure, a messy sleight of hand that revels in the open, lived-with potential of contemporary image making.
Longacre-White’s exhibition in Cleveland is part of Bellwether, an ongoing series of talks and events initiated by the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Contemporary Art Society.1 Popping up in different locations, Bellwether’s activities draw attention to places and practices that deepen and shift experiences of the post-industrial cityscape. Curator Lisa Kurzner, with the help of the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation, found a room in a vacant building on the corner of 55th and St. Clair, most recently used as the Goodrich-Gannett Neighborhood Center, and originally as a Carnegie Library. Filled with traces of habitation, this setting amplifies the artwork’s used materiality as well as its liminal sensibility.
The exhibition includes a reiteration of Ceiling (2013), a tiled, top-to-bottom wall installation of 30 prints; a series of four untitled works based on iPad scans (all 2014); and white plaster sculptures of Apple products (all 2014). A sort of subconscious imaginary of obsolescence pervades all; the works prefigure a future that will render their subject matter archaic.
For the scans, an iPad is placed face down on a scanner, the warm light of which activates the touch screen, causing it to load a new image or webpage. Capturing unseen, transitional moments, the scans become foundations for additional glitchy layering: output, torn, collaged, rescanned, output again (and so on…). The paper is printed on multiple times with different files, resulting in overlapping compositions and areas where the ink takes on a textural, gloopy depth. Though overshadowed by manipulation, indexicality nevertheless plays a role in these works. Contact, time, ordering, and the element of chance those variables produce, gives the works an inherently “photographic” aspect. Indexicality also comes through in surprising moments, such as the clearly illuminated fingerprints that dot the iPad screens (apparently, the artist never cleans them), as well as in the buckles and punctures on the prints themselves. Installed directly on the wall with large staples, the prints have numerous holes from previous hangings, a detail which stresses their mutability. These objects have been paused at various points in their becoming, and are now similarly at rest.
Ceiling takes as its subject a silver sheeting material used to line the ceilings of industrial warehouses and studios in LA. At her artist talk, Longacre-White described her interest in this material and piece as something that can appear as other than itself, a perplexity that pervades her work. Uniformity of display delays the noticing of difference: a few of the sheets are made of the silvery material; one is a photograph of the material installed, and the rest are digital echoes (images of images). Variations in scale, and accumulated edges within the frames, subtly suggest the iterative process; and then, there are completely brilliant moments like the hovering mouse arrow in the highest row, which feels like a quivering, ill-fated JENGA block that sends the whole tower tumbling down. Even when you know you are looking at an image of an image, as opposed to an image of a thing, habit causes you to read into said image a degree of referential integrity, until said integrity is punctured—in this case, by the slyest apparition of the artist’s hand. Then, you step back and the installation re-composes itself as an entirety, a whole. You start to understand it as a mass with this delightfully complicated pictorial architecture, a confounding image-thingness.
While the print-based works have an unfamiliar, urgent energy, the sculptural works are simpler and much quieter. Made with Apple products, and plaster casts of them, they extend the artist’s interest in copies and camouflage, nestling up to walls and gathering in a corner. Oddly enough, these objects appear to have less volume than the flat prints; they are dummies, almost ghost-like. This zero-dimensionality could be just the point; fossils of departed spirits, they command affection mixed with antipathy, lolling about as droll techno-vanitas.
On view until May 4, 2014
Friday, May 2, 12 – 5 pm
Saturday, May 3, 2 – 6 pm
Sunday, May 4, 12 – 4 pm
With an additional date:
Saturday, May 10, 11 am – 4 pm
For more information visit http://bellwether.clevelandart.org/.
Rose Bouthillier is Associate Curator and Publications Manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Her writing has been published in C magazine, frieze, esse, and Art Criticism & Other Short Stories. View more articles by Rose Bouthillier.