Compositions in Clay
Higher Pictures presents new work by Travess Smalley, Compositions in Clay. This is the
artist’s second solo exhibition at Higher Pictures. Smalley produces work using the materials
and actions of collage, drawing, and sculpture through the language and tools of digital
photography. In Capture Physical Presence (begun in 2011), Smalley translates compositions
from the digital to the physical and back again through a series of manual and virtual
actions—drawing, cutting, scanning, and printing—performed and re-performed in a loop.
Compositions in Clay (2012–ongoing) continues the exploration of a new space of production
that exists somewhere between the virtual image and the physical object and a practice
characterized by a pervasive engagement with notions of simultaneity and hybridity.
For Compositions in Clay Smalley starts by covering the glass surface of a scanner bed with a
layer of modeling clay that he then kneads, smears and pushes until a painting-sculpture
emerges. The clay compositions are then scanned, creating the digital negative from which
Smalley makes the final prints. Each unique c-print stands over seven feet tall, a gesture that
translates a direct record of the artist’s fingerprints into an immersive abstract field. The
automatic, workaday action of clicking scan becomes a generative process, making it possible
for Smalley to achieve the conversions in form and scale that link the languages of sculpture,
photography, and painting.
The iteration of Compositions in Clay on view here are the first monochrome prints in the
series. Stripping away color and enlarging the textured surface still further, Smalley distills his
thesis: the artist’s gesture is translated from construction to representation to abstraction, and
back again. Standing before the work, the viewer reads material, action, and image all at
Travess Smalley was born in Huntington, West Virginia in 1986 and graduated from
The Cooper Union in 2010. He lives and works in New York.