Last week I dropped in on Cheim & Read Gallery to see the show by Adam Fuss. Of course Fuss’s work interests me because I have been making photograms for the last 30 years or so. He always seems to be exploring new subject matter using interesting techniques and it always good stuff.
Arriving at the gallery I was excited to see the artist there giving a talk about his work. We stuck around to hear his spiel, which was fascinating because of his facile “art-speak” and meaningless but apparently heartfelt blather that people seem to expect and enjoy hearing artists spew. I felt like I had stumbled into a live version of the automatic artist statement website.
But maybe I’m just jealous of his exceptional success and his ability to go yadda yadda yadda about his work – which is something I struggle with for my own work. I console myself with the idea that the work should speak for itself. But of course most work benefits from some sort of explanation in an artist statement. When he offered to take the attendees to his studio after the exhibition tour I decided not to crash that, too… and left the gallery having with great admiration for his work despite not much appreciation of his explanatory skills. Perhaps that is why he makes pictures instead of writing books.
The show is definitely worth seeing. Cheim & Read 547 West 25th Street New York, NY 10001
this is from the Cheim & Read website:
In Fuss’s photograms of water, verticality and its implied movement are integral to his intentions. The image-making process is less predictable, and the work is focused instead on the event and its result—which, as he says, is “a photographic representation of energy”—rather than on its materiality. Monumental in scale at just over 9 feet tall, the images engulf the viewer, and in this way are reminiscent of Abstract Expressionist canvases, particularly the gestural drips of Jackson Pollock or the cool verticality of Barnett Newman’s “zip” paintings. History, however, does not weigh Fuss’s work. As with much of his imagery, the seeming simplicity of his sources (water falling, snakes slithering) is belied by the depth and variety of possible readings, allowing for complex associations and interpretations. The expressiveness conveyed in these works is also contrasted by the impressive technical feats by which they are made.
The rush of falling water is tempered by more mysterious photograms of a sheer but unrevealing curtain. Measuring over 9 feet tall, they again overwhelm the viewer with their presence. For Fuss, the image harks back to William Henry Fox Talbot’s first photographic image of an oriel window (1835), and the dawn of photographic processes. At a time when the ubiquity of digital imagery has dulled the initial magic of this moment, Fuss sees the curtain as pulled between two worlds. Referring to it as a strata or layer, he describes it as a division not only between interior and exterior, but between traditional and contemporary sensibilities. He also relates the curtain’s drape and folds to classical Greek statuary, in which the animation of the human body is expressed through sculpted fabric. Abstract in form, the drapery and its “movement” symbolize underlying flesh; it is a boundary between the material and immaterial, between life and death.