From one photography collector to another: a venue for thoughtful discussion of vintage and contemporary photography via reviews of recent museum exhibitions, gallery shows, photography auctions, photo books, art fairs and other items of interest to photography collectors large and small.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Jessica Labatte @Golden
JTF (just the facts): A total of 3 large scale color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung in the small single room gallery space. All of the works are archival inkjet prints, made in 2012. Each is sized roughly 73x57, and available in editions of 3. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: If you only take a passing glance at the installation shots at right, you might think Jessica Labatte's photographs are merely decorative, in a colorfully angular and pleasingly abstract way. But what is hard to see in these images (and is really only evident when you stand in the gallery) is that these works are elaborately and meticulously constructed environments made of shards of mirror, which are reflecting colored lights being projected on paper in the surrounding installation. They are actually three-dimensional studio arrangements, which are then flattened by the camera into two-dimensional compositions.
So while saturated colors pop against the enveloping black background, what is really going on here is a rigid formalist exercise in the alignment of shape and space, a bit reminiscent of the work of Barbara Kasten. Sharp edges arc and slash across the layers of mirror, creating clean geometries and crisp shadows that cross invisible depths. Squared off forms are broken into jagged jutting slivers and fragments. Tiny remnants of tape and paper reflected in the mirrors are subtle evidence of Labatte's painstaking process, while perfect gradients offer unanswered technical questions. This simmering jumble of overlapping colors is actually very carefully controlled chaos.
I like the idea of moving back and forth between studio reality and abstraction, and being allowed to explore the assembled world in multiple ways, where figure and ground alternation shift to the investigation of a turned mirror or a curve of shadow, and back again. Labatte proves there is plenty of unexamined territory in the still life genre, especially when complicated, made-to-be-photographed constructions are used to create nuanced illusions. While there are only three pictures in this tiny show, they offer plenty of excellent opportunities to get lost in the details.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced at $10800 each. Labatte's work has not yet entered the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)