Jess Thalmann – ‘Luminous & Grey’ at Angell Gallery



Perigee and Apogee (Red)2018
Archival pigment print on folded steel
24″ x 32″



ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Luminous and Grey, a series of new wall-mounted, photo-based sculptures by Jessica Thalmann. This exhibition in the Project Space marks Thalmann’s second presentation at the gallery, running from Friday, January 5 to Saturday, January 27, 2018 with an artist talk and opening reception on January 5 at 7:00 p.m.

For most of us, the colour grey signifies a certain functional dullness or lack of character. For centuries, however, artists have recognized grey as an ambiguous colour, one that is never pure but is defined by the colours around it.  In the early 1880s, Vincent Van Gogh expressed surprised at the “endless variations” of the colour grey in letters to his brother, Theo. Eight decades later, Gerhard Richter started to use grey as the “wretched starting point” for his distinctive paintings.

Jessica Thalmann‘s recent work draws inspiration from David Batchelor’s book The Luminous and the Grey (2014), in which the London, U.K.-based artist defends grey’s role in enhancing the sense of “delirium, pleasure, delight, wonder” that we experience before more  “luminous” colours.  Combined with this interest in colour is Thalmann‘s long-time interest in architecture, especially the Brutalist architecture of the 1960s and 70s. (A notable example being the Robarts Library at U of T .) For her work, Thalmann photographs buildings and streetscapes, which she then reworks by cutting, folding, re-arranging and overlaying with geometric areas of colour, drawing attention to architectural details and forms.  While some have a love-hate relationship with the hard angles and stark concrete, glass and steel construction of modernist buildings, Thalmann finds in them opportunities to examine how – as Batchelor puts it – the city’s luminous colour “seeps, spills, bleeds and stains” across these “neutral” surfaces. Printing stripes of red, teal and yellow within the folds of her photo-objects, Thalmann creates optical illusions – like that of light cast by neon signs – that subtly animate the surfaces of her prints, illustrating how images can be formally manipulated to achieve the same state of ‘object-ness’ as the things they picture.

Artists like Daniel Buren, Barbara Kasten, Walead Beshty and Liz Deschenes may spring to mind when looking at Thalmann’s work. Like them, Thalmann’s uses light, colour, form and, yes, grey, to deconstruct and delineate architectural spaces so we can better discern their easily overlooked, yet marvelous, qualities.

– Bill Clarke

Toronto-based Jessica Thalmann received her MFA from ICP-Bard College in New York in 2015. Her work has been shown in  group exhibitions at the Aperture Foundation, the International Centre for Photography and Humble Arts Foundation (New York), the VIVO Media Arts Centre (Vancouver) and Gales Gallery at York University (Toronto). She is currently at work on a public art project for display around the Honest Ed’s development for two years, beginning spring 2018.


Early this fall, overwhelmed at the New York Art Book Fair, hot and lost on my way to the bathroom, I stumbled upon Lee Lozano’s Private Books stacked neatly on a table in the center of a room, and found my way to an important personal memory.

Lee Lozano was an American painter, visual, and conceptual artist. Her Private Books are a reproduction of her personal notebooks in which she wrote about her art, views, conversations, and daily life. There are eleven books in the series, and each book is printed to appear as if it were an actual pocket-sized notebook. The pages, facsimiles of the originals, all are bound together with the same type of spiral binding.

To be able to read Lozano’s words in her handwriting provided me with a deep connection. It felt like some sort of proof or validation that the words were actually hers, not just words chopped up by many editors then delivered in an anonymous universal font.

This feeling immediately made me think of the old pocket-sized journal I have of my Dad’s. It’s a green memo pad with the exact same type of spiral binding. It doesn’t really contain anything “beautiful” or “poetic” though, it’s actually just him writing down all the cars my family owned and the dates he did work on them. (Oil changes, air filter replacements, etc.). There’s even a few hand-drawn diagrams that show which way he rotated my brother’s tires. It’s very funny actually, and super “Dad”-esque, but it holds a lot of importance to me.

He died when I was in middle school. It was very unexpected. Over the years I’ve watched my Mom sift through photographs, picking out the “good” ones to frame. Ones from milestones like weddings, birthdays, holidays – things that we deem important. Those pictures are all nice, but they don’t appeal to me the way his memo pad does. Being able to open this book and looking at where he had to scribble to see if his pen was running out of ink, or where he got grease stains on the corners of the pages from flipping them back and forth with dirty hands, that is what’s important, because that’s really him.

What happens when you convert something that was once handwritten to be typed out by machine? Does it lose a bit of value? Do you lose a bit of authorship? I don’t know how much I’d care for my Dad’s car notes if they were word files, or if Lozano’s books were just typed out pages of different things going on throughout her day. It’s those personal touches that resonate with me.


An image of one of Lozano’s Private Books

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 1.21.39 PM.png

A scan of my Dad’s notebook


Taking Inspiration From Dillon DeWaters

Our class visited ICP Bard alumni Dillion DeWaters at The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn. Of the work we saw at DeWaters’ studio, his book Indigo struck me most. The imagery had an otherworldly quality I was fascinated by. In this series the color indigo almost became something other than a color, it felt like the representation of an emotional space. The artist explained that for him it was very much about the specifics of the color, of creating it and being able to print it. For me, however, it was more about the emotive quality. Coincidentally, a couple years back I was working on a body of work that was centered around the color Cyan, specifically as produced in the color darkroom. Though the imagery and subject matter were similar to DeWaters, the work I was doing at that time felt more instinctual while DeWaters seems to do everything with a lot of intentionality. In general I am interested in color, but similar to the way that DeWaters is interested in it. I like the idea of constructing color and playing with single colors as opposed to just making work in color. He seems to use specific colors as more of a material element than just as a given characteristic of his work.

Hearing DeWaters explain his process helped mold my opinion on the work. While I could see similarities between the ways he was working and the ways, say, Hannah Whitaker works, his process seemed easier to grasp, but also more directly related to his subject matter. Even though his processes seem complicated, his work felt less strictly about process. It felt like he does complicated things with a real intentionality, because it will produce a better color or a better result. It isn’t like he could do these things an easier way and they would come out the same. I appreciated that, because on one hand it is about the process, but it’s also concerned equally with making great photographs. His work is very much about materiality but his images still feel very much like photographs. He talked a lot about material problem solving, which was something I really related to and appreciated. I often try to use odd materials, or start with an idea and have to go backwards into figuring out how to actually make that idea work in the material world. His work overall is very emotive, but for me there is this feeling that things are resolved in a certain way. He experiments a lot, but the work feels well considered and almost like a kind of solution. His images make me feel calm I think because I have no thought that I would have done anything differently in them. I think overall his work feels very balanced. There are a lot of aspects to it and a lot of things going on, but they all exist without competing with each other and actually add to his content instead of distract from it.

After our visit I spent some time on DeWaters’ website. I found a couple other bodies of work I was interested in as well. There was one body of work that looked almost microscopic. I was interested in it because I have a microscope that also functions as a camera that I sometimes use to create work. Something consistent in his work is the creative use of color as a material. There also seems to be this subtle relationship to science. Overall I was very impressed by DeWaters’ work and I was inspired by a lot of the small relationships I felt between his work and mine.

To view Dillion DeWaters’ work:


Fragments / of / Exhibition: Tom Friedman’s Ghosts and UFOs: Projections for Well-Lit Spaces

        It is a busy Friday. / Gonna go visit uncle Matt. / Where’s that F train? / Lots of shows to pick and choose. / Should I go uptown for Joshua Citarella’s show? (Last day of the exhibition) / Bus to Boston arrives at 4 pm… / that’s go check out the show near the bus stop instead. / It’s 2:15 now.

        Haven’t taken the D Train before. / Damn my backpack is really heavy. / Ghosts and UFOs? Sounds kinda cliché. / But it seems like a fun show. / 5mins walk from the station. (Google map: E train is rerouted to the Q line.) / (Sweating) / Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.”(Screen showing destination time: 2:42)

        It’s really a well-lit place as the show title pointed out. / It is just all WHITE WALLS? / Wait a sec… / Something is moving on the wall. / Other visitors: Look at that tiny little man above the exit sign! / Oh there’re subtle projections showing on the wall. / Never thought of projecting in a well-lit room before. (Always project imagery in a pitch-black room right?) / Besides the visual pleasuring feeling, I sense the work has an oddly texture which I’m not sure how to describe. / Wait I need to write a response paper for the show, try say something about it! / (IPhone’s crappy camera shutter sound) / It’s Ghostly. / Especially the piece with a moving hand / It seems like it comes from another world, another dimension. / It’s trying to break the boundary between the actual world and the world inside the wall. / It’s so real. Even there’s no physical existence of the hand. / There’re some little circle projections that look like planets / It’s a series of famous people’s moving head. / There’s Trump! / With his infamous hand gestures. /

        Oh gonna go catch my bus! / (Lighting up the cigarette on the sidewalk.)

Some thoughts on Stephen Shore’s retrospective at the MOMA.

Towards the end of my tour of the monumental retrospective of Stephen Shore’s work, currently on display at the MOMA, I had a moment, a revelation: a humbling awakening. Standing in front of a collection of seven images shot in the Ukraine, that described the house and person of a Holocaust survivor, a member that country’s decimated Jewish community, I realized that I had seen these photographs before. Not these exact images, but clones of these images, made by myriad photographers working in a documentary or quasi-documentary mode. I myself had made images in the same aesthetic vein, clones of those clones of Stephen Shore’s work. I was not anticipating being caught in that particular matrix, yet there I was: standing amidst Shore’s life work, trying to figure out where I, as a photographer, began, and he ended.

The wall text of this show begins with a quote from Shore: “Whenever I find myself copying myself – making pictures whose problems I’ve already solved – I give myself new issues to pursue.” Indeed, Shore has done exactly this over the span of this career, forming and reshaping his focus and practice, shifting and playing with his point of view. This retrospective, laid out in chronological order, allowed the viewer to follow the meanderings of his work: from his teen years, through the Factory era, through American Surfaces, towards the detachment of Uncommon Places and beyond to Instagram. Shore’s career both mirrors and drives the growth of American Photography: if shows like this make a case for the importance of an artist, then this retrospective successfully argues that Shore is one of – if not the most influential photographer, and by extension, artist – in America. On some level, we are all Stephen Shore copycats.

 Of all the developments that Shore has imparted to American photography, I would posit that the most important it is not an aesthetic or technical choice, but an emotional approach: that remove which suffuses much of Shore’s work, especially his later projects. One could argue that he is singularly responsible for the neutral stance – both visually and politically – that undergirds much of the American visual product. This detachment first becomes evident in Uncommon Spaces, a series of formally composed photographs documenting various people and places in America, created with various large format cameras, and printed at size. The coolness of these images stands in marked contrast to the frisson, immediacy and wit – see the image of people waiting for a bus in front of Morton’s Nut shop – so present in American Surfaces, the body of work that immediately preceded Uncommon Spaces. What changed between American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, what predicated this switch in approach to the American subject, such that Shore felt compelled to rework the snapshots of American Surfaces into more formal, objective images? Was this detachment indicative of a personal choice to remove himself from the contentious, messy parts of the American culture: the beginning of the culture wars, the rise of conservatism, the end of the Vietnam War, and increasing consumerism?

Where do our individual ways of seeing begin, in relationship to someone whose way of seeing has become all-pervasive? It is interesting that Shore – who, it can be argued, is responsible for validating the type of mundane photo found in the millions on Instagram – is himself plumbing the depth of that platform. Is he imitating us now? I am curious to see what the next evolution – if any – of Shore’s work will be, but I am not ready for the tsunami of clones that will follow in its wake.

Symposium 2017: Collective Opposition

Please join us on Friday for the class of 2018 symposium!

Introducing our third panelist, Raven Chacon.


Courtesy of Postcommodity.


Raven Chacon is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, an installation artist and a member of the American Indian arts collective Postcommodity. Chacon has presented his work in different contexts at Vancouver Art Gallery, ABC No Rio, REDCAT, La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Musica, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center among other traditional and non-traditional venues. His work with Postcommodity was recently featured in the Whitney Biennial and documenta 14.

He lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.