Monday, September 27, 2010

Bing Wright @Paula Cooper

JTF (just the facts): A total of 19 works, hung in the reception, small front gallery and the larger main space (split by a dividing wall). 9 of the works are from the Silver on Mirror series; they are each archival inkjet prints mounted on museum board, framed in silver with no mat. The prints are 50x40, in editions of 5, from 2010. Another 8 of the works are from the Silver Prints series; they are wax and silver leaf on silver prints, again mounted on museum board, framed in white and matted. These prints are 23x19 and are each unique, made in 2007. The show also includes a single full plate daguerreotype (unique) and a 12x152 scroll (silk and archival inkjet print mounted on paper, in an edition of 2+AP). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: In a last hurrah before dismantling his wet chemistry darkroom (the world of digital processing having overtaken his old ways), Bing Wright decided to make one final dive into the realm of the silver print. This show represents the fruits of that exploration, two bodies of abstract, process-centric work that are literally images of silver.

The larger works on display were made by dropping crumpled pieces of silver leaf on a mirror. The angled plane of the mirror creates distorted reflections of the items that sit on its surface, and pure light bounces off both the silver leaf and the mirror itself, causing sparkles, highlights and bright flashes. The shards of leaf are alternately flat, wrinkled, crushed and ripped, creating a textured landscape of folds and shadows. In some images, only a few scraps of sliver leaf dot the surface; in others, a dense jumble of pieces make for more complicated compositions. In both cases, the works seem like elegant exercises in metallic tonality, a simple construction creating endless variations of scintillating silver light.

The smaller works on view have a more hand-worked quality to them. Wright started by dropping silver leaf on glass and then making photographs of the results, capturing both the top layer and the blurry shadows cast below. During the printing process, when the prints were still wet, he layered more broken scraps of actual leaf onto the surface. These shards of silver were allowed to age, often turning a tawny brown around the edges. The effect brings a kind of dated patina to the abstractions, the collaged real silver leaf adding an object-quality physicality. These works are much less sharp and crisp, more muted and tactile, with a stronger sense of random chance than meticulous control.

Of the two, I preferred the Silver on Mirror images, as they had much more visual punch, especially from a distance, and up close, there was more rumpled tonal gradation to get lost in. A project like this can run the risk of seeming a bit too mannered, trying too hard to make something out of nothing. The best of the images here get beyond that trap and transform the humble materials into dazzling blasts of unexpected glint and glitter.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced as follows: the 50x40 prints are $10000 each, the 23x19 prints are $6500 each, the daguerreotype is $9500, and the scroll is $15000. Wright's work has not yet made it to the secondary markets in any significant way, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point. In general, I think the Silver on Mirror images will appeal to both collectors of contemporary abstraction, as well as those with a more scientific bent.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Reviews: New Yorker (here), NY Times, 2000 (here)
Bing Wright
Through October 23rd

Paula Cooper Gallery
434 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011

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