Aspen Art Museum
Marlo Pascual, Untitled, 2010; digital C-print; 33 ¾ x 33 ½ inches, framed; courtesy the artist, Aspen Art Museum and Casey Kaplan, New York; photo by Karl Wolfgang
Untitled, 2010; digital C-print, wood; 3 panels, 48 x 96 inches each; courtesy the artist, Aspen Art Museum and Casey Kaplan, New York; photo by Karl Wolfgang
Marlo Pascual’s current work at the Aspen Art Museum refuses to be labeled. At once photography, sculpture and installation, the work blurs divisions between artistic disciplines. The entire exhibit, in fact, hinges upon crossing boundaries and embracing binaries. Flat image merges with three-dimensional object, outside is confused with inside, poetic nostalgia is paired with cold formalism and the everyday becomes transcendent.
As the AAM’s Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist in Residence, Pascual has made a refreshing departure from the starlet portraits that have defined her career. The works in this exhibition (all Untitled) depict outdoor or natural scenes and objects rather than glamorous women. The lone “portrait” is a photograph of a painting of a young girl propped outside amid rocks and shrubs. This picture within a picture presents the image as a stand-in for the real thing, a thread carried throughout the exhibition. Strategically placed halfway up the stairs leading to the show’s entrance, the image acts as both a greeting and a farewell, introducing Pascual’s new body of work while referencing her familiar female portraits.
Pascual’s manipulation of the AAM’s exhibition space is similarly cunning. Her exhibition leads viewers through two small rooms that feel lonely one moment, cramped the next and finally just right. A picture of a pair of worn, empty chairs on a rainy street confronts visitors in the first room. The photograph is scaled to match the size of actual chairs and rests directly on the floor, approximating the feel of the objects pictured. The image draws viewers into the placeless street depicted and a melancholic narrative of past life. As an object and a representation, Pascual’s photograph similarly suggests both presence and absence.
A reserved playfulness reveals itself in the second room, where a towering photograph of an industrial ship is mounted on wooden scaffolding. The perspective of the ship in the photograph—receding into the sea—mimics the placement of the image in the room—receding diagonally away from the room’s entrance. Pascual conflates flat image with the museum’s physical space; the inside of the gallery becomes the open sea. Nearby, a life-sized photograph of tree branches is separated length-wise and mounted on wooden panels that lean against the wall. In both works, the wood backing is left exposed, making it a visible part of the work rather than mere support. While Pascual invades our physical space and pulls us into her images, their evident construction makes it impossible for us to completely immerse ourselves in the worlds they imagine.
This tension between representational image and physical object is most resolved in a photograph of a houseplant, which is placed in the far corner of the second room. Brilliantly lit and set atop a mundane metal stool, this image of an equally mundane plant comes to life. The plant escapes its flat plane, redefining the gallery space as an intimate and specific place. Like a domestic object that has been in the same spot so long it cannot possibly go anywhere else, this plant/image feels compellingly at home in this corner. Pascual’s seemingly effortless alchemy of image, material and space creates a delightful world where photography becomes sculpture and the represented becomes real.
Lindsay Pichaske is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she makes ceramic sculptures and installations.