Monday, February 11, 2013

Book: Sam Falls, Problems with Decomposition

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2012 by Mörel Books (here). Paperback, 60 pages, with 31 color images. There are no essays or texts. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Sam Falls is one of a new crop of contemporary artists who has his roots in the soil of photography but is otherwise seemingly unconstrained by the traditional boundaries of medium or genre. The works in this thin volume traverse the borderlands between photography and painting, creating multi-layered hybrid images that investigate the less-than-obvious essence of still life objects and probe the conceptual connection between a photographic image of something and its physical imprint. He is clearly experimenting with the definitions of representation, pushing us to consider what information each artistic method is best at conveying.

The underlying premise of this series of works is elegantly simple and concise. Falls starts with studio set-ups of piles of tires and groups of fruits and vegetables, set against a rainbow of bright colored backgrounds. Photographs of these still lifes are then used as the foundation for painted overlayers, which are made block print style by covering the objects in question (or sliced halves of those items) with colored paint and laying down impressions right on top. Tires become interlocked circles like Olympic rings, blueberries become small dots, halved peppers become lumpy heart-shaped outlines, and bunches of bananas become radial arrays of stubby fingers, all executed in color-coordinated harmony. Together, the works show us both a crisp two dimensional image and a messy, tactile manifestation of the subject, mixed and interleaved in one combined portrait. The effect is playful and exuberant, while still retaining a brainy edge, and the smart wordplay between "composition" and "decomposition", between indestructible rubber and quickly rotting fruit, adds another flash of subtle cleverness. Overpainting photographs could easily come off as crafty or contrived, but Falls' works avoid this preciousness, adding a layer of relevant gestural movement to the static documentation provided by the underlying photograph.

This small book is neatly self-contained, offering a single body of work in enough depth to see the variations and permutations taken to their logical limits and sequenced with care to accent the natural rhythms of the changing subject matter and color palette. It's meaningful proof that a photobook need not be a door stop, and that an intimate, unadorned paperback presentation can be just the right formula for works that already have plenty of visual pop.

Collector’s POV: Sam Falls is represented by American Contemporary in New York (here) and by M+B Gallery in Los Angeles (here). He also had a solo show in New York at Higher Pictures in 2011 (here).

Transit Hub:
  • Features/Reviews: NY Times T magazine (here), Art in America (here), Les Rencontres d'Arles (here)


1 comment:

Kevin said...

I would also highly recommend his recent Life Size book; which focuses primarily on his fade work. To me, his fade work is the best of his oeuvre.