From paintings of paintings to photos of photos, I'm again a step removed. But a different behavior is at play at Ratio 3, one unconcerned with depiction...and more concerned with manipulating observation. Miriam Böhm is the sole controller in crafting each source photograph and its skew. These pictures, nineteen in all, are each easy to describe superficially. A black wooden frame traces the edges of a photo of a very similar unframed photo. Inside that unframed source photo is a medley of wrapped items, ostensibly paintings or other 2D art. Each assortment of one, two, or three items (in bubble wrap, paper, or cardboard) leans gently against a burlap-textured wall over a hardwood floor. Sometimes a cushion of bubble wrap lines the floor underneath.
The photo you're actually looking at, however, is of the same burlap wall, sometimes the same bubble wrap underfoot, but with the source photo placed atop--leaning as if aping the posture of those mysterious wrapped rectangles. It's fascinating that the "subjects" from the original photo are gone but are still intellectually there, readable. But what are they? The wrappings contain art, presumably. Sold art? Art that's moving from a shuttered gallery to a warehouse? To a debtor? I see these wrapped pieces as a window into commercial art, fumbling as it has recently. Granted, I bring in the baggage of working for a small San Francisco gallery, so salt to taste...but hear me out. To me these are photos of blank walls with illusions placed on them...illusions of sold art. Illusions of success.
Although Böhm does not attempt a trompe l'oeil effect, the doubling of imagery can be a bit confusing to the senses. It's the deliberate and pronounced shift, the angle of the photograph's lean, that most profoundly achieves this. When the source photo's bubble wrap aligns with the bubble wrap beneath it, I sense an unreliable reflection, like deja vu in a way. But, y'know, the whole place seems off. The floor in Ratio 3 is ravaged, like salvaged wood from the Pequot, and I can only describe the smell as feline. Yet, the gallery has clean, cold fluorescent-lit walls and ceilings. Böhm has met her match.
Now for the What if? which I think will cover my frustrations with the show. At nineteen nearly identical photographs, is the art redundant? I'm not convinced that the sheer quantity effects the idea of overwhelming commerciality, if that's what it intends to do. Also, why not use the floor? Lean the work on the floor. Recreate the burlap walls. Print the photos to scale. What if? This show is thoughtful and attractive in this space, but is it enough? What if?
- Andy Ritchie