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Amy Granat
Galerie VidalCuglietta
5 Bd Barthelemy, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
September 7, 2012 - November 17, 2012

Light, reincarnate
by Andrea Alessi

Loops of film stock hang from a hook on the wall. Loose film, out in the world, seems wrong. It’s not hidden, light-safe inside a camera, or tightly wound on reels or in canisters. It signals accidental exposure, perhaps a broken recording or projecting device. But there are no mistakes here. The filmstrips are scratched, damaged, punk. There’s intention in their seemingly abusive marks. The violence of the scratches is countered by the lightness of the delicate shadows they cast on the wall. The scratched film is an indexical object, a medium laden with potential images. But it is also an art object itself, a physical gesture on the canvas of emulsion.

New York-based artist Amy Granat, whose exhibition Reincarnare is currently installed at VidalCuglietta in Brussels, makes work that art geeks will enjoy as much as the non-initiated will. Her associations and antecedents can be abstruse: her ouevre most notably shares the concerns of experimental avant-garde film of the 1960s and 70s, but it also recalls the work of early photo-experimenters like Man Ray and even some abstract expressionists. Yet despite their arty ancestors, the works’ haunting beauty and simple elegance make them approachable for a wide audience.

Amy Granat, 3 scratches Before After Present, 2012, B&W frames photography and photogram, 16 mm projection; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie VidalCuglietta.

Her predecessors, including Anthony McCall, Paul Sharits, and Tony Conrad (to name but a few), were some of the first to put on display the mechanisms of film, cinema, and photography, highlighting the material properties of their media typically at the expense of narrative subject matter. Granat picks up the torch where they left off, generally privileging the filmic object and its agents over their ostensible referents, but she is not satisfied merely making droll observations about the physicality and materiality of film and light. Included in her structural observations is a unique aesthetic that is at once edgy and ethereal. Sure, her work is clever and referential, but it’s also kind of pretty. There are elements of chance and technological determinism, but also the controlling hand of an artist who is not only making smart, conceptual decisions that denaturalize our understanding of film and photography, but one who is also seeking out beauty in these decisions.

The works at VidalCuglietta include framed and unframed photographs and photograms (works that expose light directly onto photo emulsion on paper without using a camera), 16mm film projections, scratched film stock, and a quilt. Eight full bleed photograms of picked tulips edge up to one another; neatly stacked framed and unframed photographs obscure each other in a careful table display; a projected scratch film comprises one third of a triptych, bookended by what seem to be layered and blown up still images from the scratched loops of film. Images are only tangentially the subjects. Film and photographs are objects, and celluloid, paper, frames, shelves, even pedestals, all become considered parts of the artwork.

Amy Granat, Hidden Mango High, 2012, table installation; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie VidalCuglietta.

There are a lot of binaries at the heart of Granat’s work: creation/destruction, positive/negative, light/dark. Light and dark are, of course, elements and principles central to photography as both a medium and a technology. But there is also an emotional and aesthetic lightness and darkness to her work. There is a place for both edgy scratches and ghostly tulips, imposing shadows and panda-faced lanterns. These juxtapositions are part of what make Granat’s work feel contemporary despite its occasionally twentieth century concerns. In Reincarnare, binaries are not opposed so much as they represent parts of a cycle. Summer and winter are opposites, but they are also cyclically connected. Inject time (which is, appropriately, a fundamental element of film and photography) into the equation and destruction becomes creation. Manipulated through film, lenses, apertures, time, and chemicals, darkness is born again as light. Highlight becomes shadow. Negative is reincarnated as positive.


Andrea Alessi

(Image on top: Amy Granat, Tulips, 2012, 8 photograms, 164 x 104 cm; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie VidalCuglietta.)

Posted by Andrea Alessi on 10/30/12 | tags: photography installation mixed-media

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