Roland Barthes said that in order to tame the Photograph, one must banalize it until it is no longer confronted with an image in which it can mark itself, its scandal, its madness. With its most recent exhibition, The Photographers’ Gallery does just the opposite. The Photographic Object asks its artists to test the limits of photography—exploring the mad relations between it and other mediums and the potential of photography to exist between two and three dimensions.
The exhibition is an interesting one—combining works by an eclectic group of artists. Viewers see photographs folded, wrinkled and torn, burned, painted over and stitched, spread across the gallery’s second floor. For his embroidered photographs, Maurizio Anzeri embroiders found black and white photographs from the 1930s and 40s, creating beautiful, colorful spirals around the subjects’ eyes and mouths. The works contrast past and present, eerie and beautiful, portraiture and the decorative arts. By obliterating the portrait, Anzeri fragments the body, questing the function of the portrait itself.
Other stand-out works include Gerhard Richter’s Overpainted Photographs, prints by Andy Warhol, Photosculptures by Alina Szapocznikow and Catherine Yass’ Damage series, in which the artist physically destroys eight of her own Fuji Film transparency prints, leaving them writhing in a lighted vitrine. The transparencies are acidic and broken—their images flaking away. With its most recent show, The Photographers’ Gallery hits it just right, exhibiting works that engage within a wide dialogue of ideas. Each of the artists, purveyors of many mediums, treats the photograph as far more than a bearer of image—as an object itself.
-- Ashley Vaughan