Wallspace is pleased to present A Language of Exposures, our fourth solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist Shannon Ebner.
A Language of Exposures underscores Ebner’s interest in photography’s ability to address spaces outside of the camera’s frame; spaces that depict at the same time as they generate new visual systems where the photographic meets the graphic and the linguistic meets the symbolic. Here, one is asked to read as much as look at this work. This conflation of reading and looking generates a lexicon of letters and forms that moves in and out of legibility: words and sentences divide, gaps sit heavily on the page, and alphabetical arrangements and symbols fuse, break apart, and reunite, altering our perceptual experiences of them.
Ebner approaches language much like a photographer approaches his or her subject; words, letters and symbols are assessed, gathered, documented and deployed for use. Because Ebner frequently combines found words with phrases of her own, she creates a third type of language. This notion of a third term, one that resists traditional binaries and argues for a kind of in-between space, is best articulated in a video titled An Unrested Image, in which a classical image of a rotating and stammering torso suggests a resistant grammar that is neither male nor female, formed nor unformed.
The largest component of the show is an 18-part piece titled the man in the white hat dropped it. In this work, Ebner scavenges language originally found in a book of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings to re-generate a poem in visual form; words and line breaks are marked by blank spaces engineered to build a formal system for photographic and visual writing somewhere between pattern and noise. As such, the physicality of language is foregrounded, providing an illusory body for the poem’s absent subject.
In Instrumentals, Ebner continues to explore nascent photographic form. Photographing a workshop template for tools that she found in an auto-body shop, Ebner locates the meeting of the photographic and the graphic. The template, when stripped from its context and everyday use, suggests a foundation or visual primer for building an elemental photographic form much like her alphabet prototypes. Wild and pliable, this image suggests the endless possibility for two overlapping systems—that of language and photography—to form and re-form itself in perpetuity.
Shannon Ebner was born in Englewood, NJ in 1971 and lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds a BA from Bard College and an MFA from Yale University School of Art. Ebner has exhibited widely, including Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, The Museum of Modern Art (2012); The 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Shannon Ebner, The Hammer Museum & LAXART, Los Angeles (2011); The 6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2010); Upcoming projects include a commission for the High Line (2013); a solo exhibition at Sadie Coles, London (2013) and Fondazione Memmo, Rome (2014).