Comments/Context: In a contemporary photographic world increasingly defined and measured by complex ideas, intricate concepts, and clever appropriations, sticking with the simplicity of up-close nature can be a tricky endeavor. How can a photographer making images of flowers and trees get beyond the merely decorative and create durably original works that hold their own in a chilly white cube? Or is this subject matter genre now forever relegated to setting the ambiance of a hip hotel or a Pottery Barn?
Jeri Eisenberg has tackled this problem using a combination of in-camera techniques and process steps to make works that bring a photographic aesthetic to the simple elegance of the Asian scroll or multi-panel screen. Magnolia blossoms, crab apple clusters, and the vibrant orange of Sugar Maple leaves in the fall have been blurred to the point where they have become painterly and impressionistic, their sharp edges traded for the ephemeral fuzziness of a passing glance. The images have then been sliced into long, vertical strips and printed on luscious paper infused with wax, in an almost Neo-Pictorialist manner, where the photograph has been transformed into a tactile object with surface properties.
In many ways, while these works document the beauty of the fleeting moment, they seem less about specific natural specimens and more like a path inward, toward an intimate and personal world of essence. The multi-panel images float on the walls, dematerialized into an exploration of the nature of vision, and when Eisenberg gets it just right, the subjects shimmer back and forth between recognizable things and gestural flashes of softened color. For the most part, she avoids the trap of the overtly retro or sweetly precious, and instead turns the foliage into a platform for ethereal abstraction.
Collector's POV: The photographs in this show are priced as follows. The two panel works are $1800 each, the three panel works are $2600 each, and the four panel works are $3500 each. Eisenberg's work has not yet appeared in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
My favorite image in this show was Magnolia #4, 2004; it's the image on the left in the top installation shot. I like the quiet, understated delicacy of the pink petals and the thin branches.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Feature: Lenscratch (here)
Through February 26th
Kathryn Markel Fine Arts
529 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011