Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Katherine Wolkoff: Deer Beds @Wolf

JTF (just the facts): A total of 6 large scale color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the long single room gallery space. All of the works are chromogenic prints, made in 2007. The prints are sized either 20x24 or 40x50, both in editions of 7. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: While the grassy meadows and scraggly weeds in Katherine Wolkoff's new photographs could conceivably have come from any number of places in America, somehow they have a uniquely Northeastern feel to them. Around here, the kinds of open areas she has documented on Block Island in Rhode Island typically border on wetlands or new growth forests, acting as sunny transitional zones from one micro-ecosystem to another. These in-between areas have become part of the fabric of this crowded land, so much so that we humans have gotten used to local animals moving back and forth between the areas of wildness and civilization. In our neighborhood, the deer that inhabit these meadows come right up to the houses in the twilight, stopping by to nibble on the tulips and the rhododendrons before bolting back into the undergrowth.

At night, these same deer make temporary beds in the tall grass, nestling down out of the wind. When they rise in the morning and move off, they leave behind faint swirled depressions and hollows, and it is these ghostly tramplings that Wolkoff has documented in her recent landscapes. In many ways, the works are like figure/ground exercises, the pushed down silhouettes becoming ephemeral evidence of recent presence. The grasses and weeds are matted and flattened in barely recognizable bowls and nests, the frame cropping out everything but the quietly noticeable absence of the deer. Given the natural course of wind, rain, and sun, these beds will soon return to their normal form, so there is something especially fleeting about what Wolkoff has captured. The resulting images are calm and gentle, pictures of both nothing and something, both representational and gesturally abstract.

I think these photographs rightfully belong in the Northeastern landscape photography tradition that includes everything from Ray Mortenson's weeds to Joel Sternfeld's Oxbow Archive. What all of these bodies of work share is sense of the understated, of the beauty to be found in the overlooked corners of our land. Wolkoff's deer beds require some patience to get into, but they reward the attentive viewer with a sense of closeness to the rhythms of nature and a feeling of unpretentious Yankee simplicity.

Collector's POV: The works on view are priced based on size, with the 20x24 prints at $2600 and the 40x50 prints at $6000. Wolkoff's work has very little secondary market history, so gallery retail is likely the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Features/Reviews: Artforum (here)
Through June 30th
70 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

1 comment:

Pete McGovern said...

Thoughtful review of excellent work.