I am looking at Lucas Blalock’s two photographs Strawberries (fresh forever), 2014 on the computer screen. Yes, I did see them at MoMA’s New Photography 2015 show but I didn’t get as close to them as I am right now on my laptop. His photographs make me think of technological singularity, a future in which information moves so fast that we can no longer experience things in our bodies. Like the strawberry candies, is our future going to be a disembodied place of flatness and artificiality? Blalock is thinking about the possibility of a similar future in his embrace of Photoshop. He is also working with the way we experience photography in relation to our bodies.
I am interested in the expression of the artist’s hand in Photoshop. It’s not the same way that a body makes marks on paper or clay. Blalock is presenting gesture through computer rendering. He is freely showing his use of the stamp tool instead of using Photoshop with extreme discreetness. There is an intentionality to make the marks through a virtual experience. It references a separation of the artist’s humanness and body from the work. Instead of inferring the relationship of the body to art, Blalock’s photographs show a relationship of the mind to art mediated by computer technology. I wonder what it would be like to separate our bodies from how we make art and no longer use physical senses to live and interact.
Blalock’s inclusion of the bubble wrap makes me think of the sensorial relationship human’s have to this object. There is a very pleasing sensation of touching bubble wrap and hearing the pops and crackles. But the bubble wrap loses the appeal it embodies and becomes a banal object when looking at it as a photograph. Blalock’s use of the strawberries and their reiteration brings to mind to Magritte’s The Son of Man, 1946 and Golconda, 1953; the apple head in The Son of Man and the repeating man in Golconda. Blalock uses repetition and patterning a lot in his photographs. I’m counting 17 strawberries; I don’t know maybe I’m reading too deeply into the number of strawberries. Maybe that was his way of resolving composition or as Magritte says, “It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing, it is unknowable.” Regardless of what is known or not known about the duplication of strawberries, Surrealism sought to bring together opposites by overcoming boundaries. Blalock is doing this by making Photoshop an apparent tool in his photographs.
However, looking more closely at the candy I notice a couple things. The jagged green triangles represent the place where leaves fold over the edge of the fruit. But none of the real strawberries are doing that. The candy wrappers mock the actual fruit for not being perfectly red or seeded evenly. Regardless, the wrappers look short handed in relationship to the fruit. Nothing can replace the actual strawberries. The candy wrapper is a fragment of all the things we can say a strawberry is. In this case, I think about the actual fruit as a metaphor for what’s real and reality. Photography does the same thing with what is real in this world. Photography is short hand for reality, like taking a picture of bubble wrap.
Blalock’s work addresses photography’s relationship to how we perceive the world around us. I enjoy looking at his work for the paradoxes he brings up about perception. He mixes fruit and bubble wrap with computer-generated gesture to compare our sensorial experience of the real and that of the artificial.