Thomas Robertello Gallery is pleased to present BLUE SKIES/BLACK DEATH; an exhibition of new work by Noelle Mason investigating imaging as a document for corporeal experience of space and time by way of three different photographic methods: pigment print, gobelin tapestry, and photogravure. The exhibition title itself references the engagement of body, time and space as the term “blue skies/black death” (originating from the parachute infantry motto "Mors Ab Alto" in Latin, or “death from above") is familiar to skydivers as a greeting/farewell, and to indicate a fatality during a skydive.
The photographic series Decision Altitude returns to the foundational beginnings of photographic representation: the pinhole camera. The title refers both to the altitude at which a skydiver must begin emergency procedures and the photographer’s decisive moment described by Henri Cartier-Bresson. His highly influential text came in response to the advancement in negative film processes and faster lenses. There was suddenly a means to capture what had previously eluded the human eye; a moment of clarity only the camera could harness and make static. Most modern skydiving photography stops time through rapid shutter speed. By comparison, the lens-less pinhole camera demands a three second exposure which allows the film to document 500 feet of free-fall at speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour. Mason uses the primitive pinhole camera to depict the incomprehensible space and compression of time between jumping out of a plane and saving your own life. In this space the view of earth from above is a combination of aerodynamics and adrenaline.
In contrast to this the work Ground Control examines the representation of the earth from space through 'remote sensing.' Informed by the unique socio-political climate of the Southern California border with Mexico and the imaging technologies used to uphold it, Ground Control presents a set of hand woven rugs that depict images of places of conflict as seen by satellite, questioning the cartographic claim that reality can be modeled in ways that communicates spatial information effectively.
Incident Report is a set of three photogravures, a rarely used and laborious printmaking technique, with letter-pressed text. The result is a ghostly black and white image more reminiscent of a graphite drawing than a photograph. The text documents three incident reports of skydiving fatalities that are transposed in a stoic tone of the moment-by-moment happenings of each incident. The attention to detail in the two components of Incident Report is breathtaking, and in an odd paradox, the additional mechanized detachment from both the original photographic film (via the photogravure) and the original moment of incident (via an official record of incident) creates a documentary-style poetic requiem.
Born in 1977, Noelle Mason lives in Chicago and Tampa where she is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of South Florida. Mason graduated from the School of the Art Institute in 2005 with an MFA in Sculpture, and UC Irvine's BA studio art program in 2002. This is her second solo exhibition with the gallery.