Comments/Context: In a visual environment overflowing with manipulated imagery, it isn't at all surprising that we as viewers have quickly adapted, becoming increasingly skeptical of what we're presented, to the point of outright disbelieving cynicism on some of our darker days. Bryan Graf's new show is a refreshing antidote to this wearying attitude, in that his pictures are displayed with an unadorned "this is how I made it" clarity. Both his artistic intentions and the interruptions of chance come through with elemental immediacy, a kind of old school physicality reborn with a scaffolding of conceptual structure.
Graf's Shot/Reverse Shot series brings together end result photograms and small Polaroids of the set ups used to create the images, the flash that illuminated the Polaroids actually exposing the paper of the photograms. Graf stands holding a white rectangle of paper behind trailing vines and branches of garden greenery or arranges bolts of window screen mesh in front of flat studio panels, his arms and fingers often intruding on the image. The final artworks are full of elegant drooping traceries and diaphanous abstract wrinkles, simple and unabashedly straightforward.
The other photographs and photograms on view continue this experiential closeness. Handfuls of leaves, evergreen needles, and forest debris, seemingly gathered up just moments ago, are used to create flashing, all over abstractions. A grey card is held behind a single yellow flower to create a perfect petal shadow. Skyward shots of wisteria vines become leafy silhouettes. And the rigid criss cross of a garden lattice is juxtaposed with the winding chaos of natural vines. In each case, there is a direct relationship between action and reaction, between an artistic motive and the resulting artwork, without any unnecessary mediation or manipulation.
In many ways, Graf's approach represents a contrarian view to the encroaching digital tide. His reliance on process, chance, and hand-crafted artist's touch fly in the face of infinite perfect replication. There is a sense of presence here, of being part of a particular moment, that pushes us back toward believing in the truth of what we see. Given our current wary mindset, Graf's images seem to lift a heavy weight from our shoulders.
Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced between $1500 and $11000. Graf's work has not yet entered the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
Bryan Graf: Broken Lattice
Through May 18th
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011