Comments/Context: Erica Baum's recent photographs examine the interplay between the physical reality of yellowing paperback books and the two dimensional flatness of a camera-mediated image. The result is a set of abstract images that provide elusive hints at context or narrative but remain pleasingly compressed and tactile.
The dominant visual motif in these pictures is repeated vertical striping, made by fanning out the inked page edges of the books and splaying them at differing widths like a Minimalist line drawing. The aging paperbacks are tinted in purple and red, green and faded orange, offset by the darkening of the paper itself. Between these areas of lines and a sprinkling of cut off letters, small snippets and scraps of halftone imagery peek out: a man sitting in a chair, Brigitte Bardot, a woman smoking, a terrier, a leg, the face of Jean Moral. The story they might have been illustrating (trashy or serious) is unknowable, so the pictures have become separated from any particular context and immersed in the overall abstraction. In a few images, wider strips of adjacent photographs have been laid edge to edge in triangles and trapezoids like a collage, creating a rebus of unrecognizable image fragments that interconnect with surprising harmony.
What I find intriguing about these photographs is that Baum has appropriated the entire book form (not just an image or a passage of text), and then manipulated that form in ways that take advantage of its inherent physical properties. Barbara Astman did a similar thing with newspapers a few years ago, but Baum's works feel both more reverently literary and more richly conceptual.
Collector's POV: The prints in this exhibit are priced at $3300 each. Baum's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
New York, NY 10002