WEBEXCLUSIVE

Metro

JULIE SAUL GALLERY | FEBRUARY 12 – APRIL 19, 2014

Billboard advertisements, Instagrams, page after page of countless websites—the glut of photographs faced on a daily basis can leave a person benumbed to them all, even to those images that, if isolated, might otherwise be a cause for absorption. For a photographer, the prospect of creating an image that will resonate with its audience is no doubt a daunting prospect. Three artists currently on view in Metro at Julie Saul Gallery—Reinier Gerritsen, Adam Magyar, and David Molander—attempt to tackle this problem by stitching together, though varied processes, patchworks of other photographs in order to make a new whole. More than photographers, one might think of them as digital fabric makers.

Reinier Gerritsen, Fear and Loathing, 2009. Pigment print mounted on Sintra, 2.5 × 43âââ¬ÃÂ. Edition 4/5.

A selection of works by Swedish artist Reinier Gerritsen depicts clusters of passengers riding New York City subway trains. Gerritsen first shoots in continuous high speed, capturing his subjects in quick succession. From each group of photos, he then isolates an image of each individual he has captured, and digitally reintegrates them into a new frame, creating a tableau that is completely artificial and yet appears utterly realistic. The resultant images are like finely woven silk; it’s nearly impossible to tell that they are an amalgam of different shots.

Anyone who has ridden the subway at rush hour will instantly recognize a scene like the one Gerritsen has constructed in “Fear and Loathing” (2009). With the frame binding them tightly, the bodies of six commuters pack together. Each person reads, averts their eyes, or stares blankly into a middle distance. Three of the six wear headphones. The image forces the viewer to confront the weirdness of this very common scenario: when tightly confined in proximity to other bodies, the tendency of strangers is to behave as if no one else was there. Gerritsen’s manipulation of his subjects conjures a mournfulness that might otherwise go undetected in everyday life. The woman in the foreground of “Fear and Loathing” is perhaps thinking about her day at work, or what to eat for dinner. But Gerritsen has isolated her face in a moment of pain that stirs an empathetic reaction, reminding us that every individual is comprised of a million untold stories.

Disconnect also plays a role in Hungarian artist Adam Magyar’s work. In still images chosen from his Squares series, Magyar merges dozens of overhead shots of individual people into one frame, giving the impression of one large photograph taken aerially over a busy public plaza at midday. From a distance, a work like “Hong Kong V” (2007-2008) gives the impression of a knitted sweater; the small blobs of human bodies could be pills on fabric. One has the urge to caress these tactile photographs. Up close, the dots become distinctly human, yet no one person is distinguishable from another. Careful inspection also reveals that Magyar has composed the image such that no single body amongst the dozens touches another.

An exception to all of this engineering of isolation seems to come in Swedish artist David Molander’s chromogenic print, “Zuccotti Park” (2013), apparently taken during the apex of the Occupy movement in the eponymous park in Lower Manhattan in the autumn of 2011. Unlike the other two artists, Molander does not take pains to hide the bricolage of his work. Here, in a panoramic image he stitched together from many different photographs, the seams are allowed to remain, a quilt of photography depicting a mass of exuberant bodies in close and direct contact with each other. The marigold yellows of protesters’ signs combined with the royal blue of the night sky creates a more benevolent atmosphere than any other image here. But the feeling is short-lived, for the bodies at the center engaging each other in the warm city night are flanked on either side by the presence of N.Y.P.D. cars and watchtowers, curling around the crowd at the edges of the frame, a foreshadowing of the movement’s eventual and violent demise. Indeed, the physical image itself is flanked on the wall by two starker, more dystopian Molander works. In one, “Fountain LES,” (2013) he has assembled images of fire hydrants erupting to fabricate a grim and flooded Manhattan street, while in the other, “Highrise”(2012), he’s built a skyscraper of our nightmares, a mass of lighted glass windows in the sky, looming over a dim street, virtually devoid of people.

To exist in a city means, by necessity, to accept the nearness of others at all times, and most usually, unknown others. Gerritsen, Magyar, and Molander interrogate this circumstance of urban living, and the natural, but defensive mechanism of coping with it; that is, by cloistering oneself from those who surround us. By basting together images that depict a paucity of social connection, their work actually pleads for the opposite: a desire for city dwellers to acknowledge and connect with each other as human beings.

Contributor

Jessica Holmes

JESSICA HOLMES is a New York-based writer and critic who contributes regularly to the Brooklyn Rail, Artcritical, Hyperallergic, and other publications. Find her published work and other projects at www.jessica-holmes.net.

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