Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nathan Harger @Hasted Kraeutler

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 individual photographs and 2 grids (25 and 20 prints each), framed in white with no mats, and hung in the entry and the first two rooms of the gallery space. All of the works are digital c-prints mounted to Plexiglas, made between 2008 and 2010; most are printed in high contrast black and white. Dimensions range from 25x26 to 34x53, with many at 42x28 or reverse; all are available in editions of 7. The two grids are sized 65x43 and 70x62 respectively. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Nathan Harger's photographs of city and industrial architecture take the idea of a monochrome silhouette to its logical extreme. Most of his images strip out the intermediate gray scale tones, leaving behind a flattened exercise in black and white, almost like an intricate ink or charcoal drawing. Cranes and power lines, silos and billboards become bold abstract outlines.

While this type of subject matter has already been thoroughly covered by many of the masters of photography (particularly the ID photographers from 1950s Chicago), Harger's images have a striking sense of the polarized maximum, where skies are pure blinding white, and process tanks and subway overpasses are richly black, almost tactile and velvety. He has bumped up against the point where photography intersects with graphic design, as his blocked out forms and delicate traceries lose their sense of photographic detail and are transformed into stylized representations.

For me, the works have surprising parallels in look and feel to James Welling's formal abstractions made from strips of simple black paper. Or maybe Harger is somewhere in between, almost like a Neo-Precisionist (channeling and reinterpreting Sheeler, Demuth, Crawford and others), exploring the linearity of recognizable imagery, albeit with the tools of pared down monochrome photography.
Collector's POV: The images in this show are generally priced based on size. The smallest individual prints are $2500, the medium 42x28 prints are $4500 and the largest prints are $5000. The two grids are $9000 and $7500. Harger's work is not consistently available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

My favorite image in the show was Untitled (Crane 2), New York, NY, 2008; it's the picture on the right in the installation shot below. I like the geometric patterns of the vertical lines and angled cross beams, and the unbalanced composition set off by the bold black dot.

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

Transit Hub:
Through January 29th

537 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

No comments: