Cleveland-based artist Brandon Juhasz pulls images from the internet to construct what he calls “3-dimensional paper sculpture.” He then photographs these collage-sculptures to present images he hopes will, as he says, “question the legitimacy and meaning” of the glut of images around us. The off-beat titles and crisp, hyper-real juxtapositions in such works as “Prop,” an image of a stack of pies upholding a window, look a bit like Magritte’s tidy yet improbable arrangements.
Brooklyn artist Daniel Gordon adopts a similar starting point but moves in a very different direction. Gordon first came to attention with his series of “Flying Pictures,” self-portraits of the long-john-clad artist soaring over landscapes which, like Yves Klein’s famous “Leap into the Void,” take a humorous swing at photography’s much-vaunted veridical status. For the work presented here, Gordon has photographed 3-D sculptures he constructs from printouts taken from Google searches, creating images whose impossible mishmash foregrounds their own speciousness. Like Juhasz, Gordon pushes photography in the direction of other media such as painting, collage, and sculpture, suspending our notions of photography’s existential relation to the real. (Gordon’s “Pink Face”at left.)
German photographer Christopher Engels responds to what he calls “the flood of pictures polluting the world” by creating what he calls “digital collages” from images drawn from web portals such as “Google Earth” and “Google Weather.” For the series “Vue des Alpes,” Engel takes images of the snowy mountains, changes them to black and white, and, it would seem, re-photographs them from his computer screen.
Jonathan Lewis shares with Engel an interest in pushing photography in the direction of color field painting. The Los Angeles artist’s “Designer” photographs of shop windows taken with a cheap hand-held camera and then blown up to a just barely decipherable resolution, at once evokes the photographic tradition of shop windows as subject matter that goes back to Atget and Brassaï and 20th-century abstract painting.
Jason Salavon’s “Portraits” most explicitly play off painting. For these works, the Chicago-based artist works from his self-created software to determine color averages of Dutch master paintings by Hals, Van Dyck, Velasquez, and Rembrandt, reproducing these iconic self-portraits as sfumato-infused abstractions. The pictures are at once mysteriously illegible and recognizable, playing off ideas of art history and cultural capital.
The work of New York artist Penelope Umbrico engages similar ideas about the relations between the illegible and the recognizable from a much different perspective. Her “Suns from Flikr” project began with her attempt to look for “the most photographed” subject. Taking images of the sun from anonymous photos from the Flikr website, Umbrico creates picture-collages with varying degrees of opacity that, as the title “87 Suns from Flikr—29 Visible” suggests, play the visible and invisible off one another.
With the exception of Lewis, these artists find their source material on the web. Lewis uses low-tech equipment to photograph sometimes upscale, sometimes low-rent, commercial subject matter. The “curatorial” process of these artists raises questions about originality, authorship and just what kind of photograph belongs in an art gallery.