Talia Chetrit and Daniel Gordon
Tony Wight Gallery
Daniel Gordon, July 2, 2009, 2009; C-print; 16 x 20 inches; courtesy the artist and Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago
Talia Chetrit, Drawing on Skin, 2010; silver gelatin print; 14 x 10 inches; courtesy the artist and Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago
The antiseptic North Gallery at Tony Wight looks merely flecked by the thirteen smallish photographic prints that comprise the two-person show Talia Chetrit and Daniel Gordon. This observation is not meant negatively but rather to illustrate how the installation of these two photographers’ work produces a strange state of suspended animation in the gallery.
Aesthetically, Chetrit’s and Gordon’s constructed studio photography is quite dissimilar. Chetrit creates elegant, minimal and beautifully composed black-and-white photography, while Gordon’s layering of vividly colored elements suggests a more maximalist approach to image-making. However, their work agrees in an interesting number of ways. Foremost, these artists insist on making the medium of photography work beyond its common definition as discrete, “definite moment[s].” Chetrit’s and Gordon’s photography is alive with associations and betrays the intensity of their process. These prints clamor for context and communication beyond hibernation in their respective frames on gallery walls.
Chetrit’s compositions depict subtle arrangements of props—a plaster mask, a stylized fist and metal filings on either a monochrome background or human skin—that alternately recall Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photos of mathematical forms, eBay product photography or documentation of László Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic sculptures. The sparseness of the forms and other visual information in her work encourages one to consider grain, gradations of light and shadow and the conventions of studio photography—light kits, seamless paper backdrops, crushed velvet, etc. By orienting her prints vertically, like portraits, Chetrit instills a gravitas and personality to the depicted props.
Gordon constructs trompe l’oeil, three-dimensional, photo-sculptural tableaux by layering and collaging cut-up and torn printed images sourced from the Internet that he subsequently photographs to create single, flat images. The results, titled with the date they were created, recall some of the representational concerns of Cubism, while also flirting with the abject, grotesque and fractured way certain contemporary artists, like Kiki Smith, portray the human body. Gordon orients his prints like landscapes, which could point to a reading of them as such or instead might reference something else (computer screens, perhaps, if his choice of raw material is any indication of intent). This conceptual body of work shows an almost diaristic, blog-like process and practice, where whatever chance is involved in Web image searches plays a significant role in the final result.
Despite the contemporary concerns Gordon and Chetrit explore, the rather modest and consistent size of both artists’ prints is refreshing for a current photography show. Except for a single, larger work hung behind the reception desk, Gordon’s prints are 16-x-20 inches, while Chetrit’s prints measure 14-x-11 inches (again, with one exception), demonstrating a laudable confidence in affirming the power of a photographic print of cordial size. These photographic objects demand attention from afar, while rewarding a closer look that reveals a thrilling dimensionality. However, the cool stasis of a white cube limits the potential of Chetrit’s and Gordon’s work. Excerpts of an everyday existence, these photographic prints would be better served placed among, and in relation to, other quotidian objects.
Ivan Lozano is an artist and graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.