What I’ve Been Thinking About: Part 4

I was recently introduced to the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher, and have become increasingly fascinated by their singular vision and rigorous approach to the photographing of industrial forms, or “objects.” The Bechers’ “typologies,” in which each “object” in a species or subspecies of industrial form are made equivalent through photographing and displaying of this form in a similar manner – such that levels of correspondence are realized, while details of difference become prominent – are mesmerizing.

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Here are some videos that can provide some insight into the Bechers’ working methods:

Bernd and Hilla Becher talk about their work. From Contacts Vol. 3, Portraits of Contemporary Photographers. Initiated by William Klein, 2000.

SFMOMA: Our Studio Visit with Hilla Becher

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I have recently started to create my own “typologies” of the spaces that are used or occupied by queer and trans* people (mostly youth) of color, spaces that were not built for this community, but which are claimed – albeit fleetingly – as spaces of gathering and validation. Here is one of those images.

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What I’ve Been Thinking About: Part 2

VyRToday, I’d like to highlight the work of Guadalupe Rosales, a Chicanix scholar who has curated two incredible archives of vernacular photography – Veteranas and Rucas and Map Pointz – centered around the party crew subculture that formed and flourished in Los Angeles/SoCal in the 1990s. Because of the similarities between the party crew subculture, and the Kiki Ballroom scene, which I have documented over the past 6 years – namely, that both are communities and cultures created and governed by marginalized youth of color to meet specific social needs of their respective communities – the images that Rosales has collected have been instrumental in guiding my attempts to create/reform a physical – as in, on film – vernacular archive of the Kiki Ballroom scene.

In Rosales’ own words, why they started the project: here.

Veteranas and Rucas Instagram

 

Mapz Pointz

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Here is my contribution to the Kiki Ballroom scene vernacular archive:

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What I’ve Been Thinking About: Part 1

I’m Samantha Box, and I’m a first-year student at the ICP-Bard MFA program.

Over the next week, I will be sharing a series of images and articles that reflect the ideas/pictures/thoughts that I’m brooding over, which are inspiring new directions in my practice.

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Recently, I’ve been thinking of the marginal nature of queer spaces, especially those created and occupied by queer people of color. As a result, the work of Alvin Baltrop, a brilliant (and incredibly under-recognized) gay Black photographer, who actively photographed in and around the defunct Hudson River Piers on the west side of Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s – specifically documenting the communities, connections and art created in those abandoned, liminal spaces – has been spiraling through my mind. Baltrop died before receiving major recognition for his work, which is thankfully is collected in an amazing volume, Alvin Baltrop: The Piers.

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Here are two great articles that talk more about Baltrop’s life, and which feature some more images of his work on the Piers.

The Overlooked Brilliance of Alvin Baltrop, the West Side Piers’ Voyeur-in -Chief

On The Waterfront: How decadence and decay consumed the docks of 1970s New York

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Inspired by Baltrop’s images, I’ve started a series that explores the street spaces around Greenwich Village that formerly held queer communities of color. Here is a very early test shot from this nascent project:

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On Scouting and Belonging: An Interview with Paula Lombardi

Nicole Bull: You mentioned your history as a set designer. In what ways do feel that this background impacts your work?

Paula Lombardi: The impact is the direct relationship with objects. I used to wander around every neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, looking for objects, furniture, car parts, fabrics, plastics, tapes, machines, antiques, anything. Discovering all those things in their own environment and later on transformed into something else or the same but re-contextualized in a different space from where I originally saw them always amazed me.

While I was scouting I was taking pictures of all this things, and taking those pictures became the base of my actual practice.

I scout. I scout life, objects, relationships and spaces compromised to what they hold, artificially or naturally. In that superposition of things I see meaning, in that three-dimensional quality that gives them a new and unique language.

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NB: Have you noticed any shifts in your work since moving to NY from Argentina? How would you say that place factors into the work you make?

PL: I do, I think is mostly regarding the way I put things together, as my own experience.

Moving here meant to achieve, organize and put together a lot of things that didn’t have any form, that didn’t belong to me, that were different from what I was used to. I was uncomfortable in an exciting way.

With my work something similar happened, I started to be much more aware of the use of my camera, of how I started collecting things that would at some point turn into a project or part of some. At first it felt all over the place, but slowly it became a habit and I started to be more conscious about how my projects are built.  Making my way here was at the same time making my way into a new way of creating, at the beginning it felt very loose but after almost 3 years, slowly everything is kind of making sense, or I should say, I have more a feeling of belonging and knowing also why my work belongs to me.

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NB: You bring together images, objects, and texts, as well as your own photographs. Could you talk a little bit about this process? How do you accumulate these things and then decide to present them?

PL: I found out that my projects are always built up in layers. There is always a book, some of my own writings and thoughts, notes on my sessions with my psychoanalyst, drawings, some object or paper that I collected randomly and of course many feelings and thoughts. I propose a dialogue between images and objects, it’s a conversation that seems natural to me, as if what they are saying was some kind of a truth, necessary instead of arbitrary. In a way for me all these different things belong to each other.

Photography and objects combined together seem to me like a hidden dictionary that along with the use of words, which is also an important part of my practice, brings meaning to the experience of existing that runs over and over into all of us.

NB: Reading seems to play an important role in your practice. What do you like to read? What are some of your other influences (photographic and otherwise)?

PL: Words are for me another universe that I have access too, being able to get out of the visuals zone and immersing myself in a text launching me to wander and imagine. Reading is how I would choose to see which is the opposite of how I made my pictures which is seeing all over the place, full of curiosity but really interested in finding and being surprised with what is left behind as it it, the portraits of us, humanity and nature.

Reading is an open space, driven in one sense but visually unlimited. I get relief through reading. I am interested in psychology and philosophy. I read poetry and very much enjoy short novels from contemporary Argentine writers. The writings of Clarice Lispector had been a very big influence on my work, reading the Passion of G.H. even became a body of work.

The photographers/artists that always stay with me are Sophie Calle, Annette Messager, Wolfgang Tillmans, Susan Meiselas, Nan Goldin, JH Engström, Adriana Lestido, Barbara Bloom and many more, that’s a hard question.

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NB: You have started working on this new project dealing with anesthesia. What is your relationship to the subject matter? And could you talk a bit about how this is different from your other work?

PL: It all started with the idea of taking a portrait of my mother in the public hospital where she has been working for 30 years. Then it moved to a straight documentary approach, shooting in the public hospital in general and during surgery, focusing mainly in the roll of the anesthesiologist. After seeing the material I made so far, I felt it wasn’t going anywhere, until I started digging more into the treatment of pain. And then I started putting pieces together and it became my family history. A story of the treatment of pain, and then my story begins:

A man breaks an enema in his bathroom because he can’t manage to use it. On that same night he goes to the pharmacy in his neighborhood to buy a new one. A young girl, wearing a robe, attends it, she talks to him through a small window of the pharmacy that her grandfather founded. Then her father continued until he died and it passed into the hands of his sister who is also a pharmacist. The young woman is studying medicine and is specializing in anesthesiology. The next day he goes back to the pharmacy to ask her out on a date, 6 years later I was born.

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This project is different from others because of its shifts. It is still building itself up. I have been working with a varied range of material. I started with my 35mm pictures of the hospital, then moved into interviewing my mother about anesthesia, archival material of my mother of her career and personal photographs (when she graduated, early in the pharmacy, after revalidating her degree, documents, etc.), also pictures of objects that belonged to the pharmacy and medical equipment, like the doctor suitcase that had belonged to her since she graduated. After developing some images of the hospital, the last time I was in Argentina, I soak the negatives into 4 different kinds of anesthesia and then scanned them again. Images that are treated against pain.

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Paula Lombardi was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986. Studied Art Direction at The University of Cine in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. After graduating in 2009, she worked as a set designer in advertising, tv and film before moving to New York to study at the International Center of Photography. After finishing The One-Year Certificate Program at ICP, collaborated with various artists in the residency program at Elizabeth Foundation. Actually assisting Susan Meiselas and Jean Pierre Laffont, two photographers with a remarkable photojournalist experience, also as an assistant for the visual artist Gaspar Libedinsky. In addition she is also working as a Teacher Assistant at ICP for the One-Year Certificate Program and the ICP-Bard MFA.
While working she also developed her personal work, making both things converge. Major exhibitions: “Another Kind of Paradise”, curated by curated by Elizabeth Kilroy, Darin Mickey, and Alison Morley at Rita.K. Hillman Education Gallery at the International Center of Photography, New York, 2013. Group Exhibition “Successful Failure” at Space 776 in New York, 2016. Group Show “1+1+1+1” in Argentina, 2016. Group Exhibition “Pop-Up Archive”, curated by Claudia Sohrens, ICP at Mana Contemporary, New York, 2017, “Wish You Were Here 16”Annual Postcard Show at A.I.R. Gallery, New York, 2017.

Jess Thalmann – ‘Luminous & Grey’ at Angell Gallery

 

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

LUMINOUS AND GREY

 

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.

 

http://www.angellgallery.com/artist/jessica-thalmann/exhibition/luminous-and-grey

http://jessicathalmann.com/

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My Experience at NYABF

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

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A scan of my Dad’s notebook

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