Anastasia Samoylova: m o z a r t

Anastasia Samoylova: m o z a r t

Posted by on Apr 21, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

Accuracy is not as quick as wit. Profound safari accumulates the glorious mess of Anastasia Samoylova. She is in depth and sight; the works are consummate. Supreme garbage, splendid topography, succinct reactions stimulate fabricated diversities. Planes of petulant shapes and iconography. The familiarity of something natural, but not quite. Quick and round, the formulation of confusion is superb and overwhelmed. Oculus of Samoylova inoculated in brightness and saturation. Besmirched visions of contemporary worlds; our Earth is impudently humiliated by interpretative human sublime. Captured, caught, correlated, catalogued, copied. Outright, inside, exterior, luster, divaricate. All life, as all constructions, is temporary. Tempered and tampered Samoylova’s work reflects this order of things. It is not without its absurdities as much as it’s not without impeccable alternative variety.

Absorptive repurposed space is redesigned. “Romantic natures always within me.” Samoylova is of certain rituals and acts that she feels born into. Meditative process and records take on a life of their own. Selective incisors cut meticulous puzzles forming dimensional labyrinths. The works are of carving reactive hands. Those hands are in response to her environment. Questions fill, crisp and refreshed. Liveliness of composition is discharged in hues and shades. Complicated simplicity of disarray. Desire beyond sex or material is intertwined into the escape of such luxury and aesthetic. To suggest such afflatus swoons inside the perceptions of endowed desires. To be transcended is very real.

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

Air is not predetermined by interpretation—it is totally open. Samoylova insists that she doesn’t have to be taken seriously. I’ll call her bluff on that. The focus of craft and eagerness to explore dictates an acknowledgment of passion and drive. The work is worthy; the ideas interpretive. If there is anything to not be serious about it’s the world outside such wonderfully poignant satire and art. The realization of course being that without one the other falls apart. Poised passion in perceptual grasp make way through awakened senses. The community established by conversations such as Samoylova’s is current and significant. They are not outright in policy or government, but are worthy of instigating mutiny. In such sublimity there is a conclusion, finally there is something that you cannot possess.

To see more of Anastasia Samoylova’s work click here.

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

© Anastasia Samoylova

Bryson Rand: Some Small Fever

Bryson Rand: Some Small Fever

Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

The body’s gesture is dumbfounded. Great lakes of whites and grays liven the flesh of men. Their paths are coarse; latent in potential beneficiaries of mutual desires. Without absolute copulate their bodies become bellows and light. They’re pieces and parts, concocted coercions congruent and charmed. Bryson Rand is sly. One smile goes a very long way. One photo of his solo show Some Small Fever at New York’s LaMama Galleria has similar effect. What will the pictures look like? You must ask yourself. In the night, during the day, dawn and dusk are consumed in the mood and atmosphere of the photography. Rand’s imagery is devoted to the separate from. If a parallel universe free of judgments and insecurities lives, these photographs are of them.

There exists no organization to cope with such espionage as those who reside on the outskirts of the south side of this Pantheon.

Spaces exist outside of normality looming in illustrious sequins and unconditional fabulousness and acceptance. The mythical nature of such plausible world is not without worry or violence. Voices rise up high hungering for transformation and sanctuary. In these notions Rand resides. Determination looks powerful. People create breath and new body, formed in unusual precision. In the photos nearly everything trickles—just along the edges. Being part of something is like seeing for the first time. Man and woman are intermixed and sexuality is slight in comparison to what they are each capable of. Separate, together, loud, glorious, and besotted. Possessions of those someones with whom one is closely associated exude valor. Be a part of that.

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

How does imagery come alive? Reinterpret what’s in front of you. There may be no reason to care—only at first—but you do. In those crumbs is where magic resides. Whatever magic may mean to you. Unexpected and factual. If Rand didn’t make these things no one else would. Psychological potential exists beyond physicality. Some Small Fever is of kinds of flesh and bone, but beyond they are filled in with something else. A meeting of two galaxies kissed at all different entrances. Things change—don’t feel held down. You are a human. Juicy. What people are after is each their own. That journey needs to recognize the sides of all thoughts and acceptances. To reform and be present is a rebellious act. I AM HERE! I AM A PERSON. QUEER AND MAGNIFICENT! Maybe if only in my mind, but I see it in Rand’s work. That shout may be silent, but it is inside each frame, black and white.

Light emanates from inside the figures and forms. Look at the way skin looks. Sight your eyes and how you feel when you wonder what places play on environments you inhabit. We become comfortable or unsure. We are human. In rendering light Rand wants less misery. Joy is so possible. Separating ease from reactions and celebration is unacceptable. To create and exist in an outside world is beautiful.

It will reward you.

See more of Bryson Rand’s work by clicking here.

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

© Bryson Rand

Katherine Hubbard: Stages & Others

Katherine Hubbard: Stages & Others

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

Fields of vision are taken for granted both in eyes and cameras. Space occupies. Voluptuous volume. Pungent periphery. Lively space between heads and ceilings; all too often invisible. Stages of lively performance are broad and commiserate on cockled calculates. Quick, nearly enough to be fleeting, the world dissolves. Interactions are not without reflection or capture. Katherine Hubbard is of wonder in regard to the structure and execution of such photographic implications. What’s implied by the space of photographic capture? Community and body. Bound and public. The activation of Hubbard is engagement. Movement cast in stillness. This great dichotomy of photography is complicated by exploration of terms of engagement and contexts. Being outside of things is as valuable as being inside.

Standing far away from the medium of photography lands you within. Situations are most important and avoiding feelings that are judgments expounds complications that are confident enough to hold. Recognizing intricacies of how to pictorialize and express photography scratches new surfaces. Viewership becomes communicative; relationships between others expound medium and turmoil. The values of the body are interwoven into the camera and there are all sorts of ways to shift responsibilities. Hubbard is a conductor. She is looking to express what gets left out by the camera. The expounding expanse of vision is measured with values, but only if you accept the invisible. Mediating individual attitudes and recognizing position can change objects, and windows, and meanings, and reasoning.

@ Katherine Hubbard: U Shaped House

@ Katherine Hubbard: U Shaped House

© Katherine Hubbard: Small Town Sex Shop

© Katherine Hubbard: Small Town Sex Shop

The camera deals with ‘bodyliness.’ Hubbard shuts down sensory. Distractions are terms of the body. You are a given, that viewership is skeptical. There is no passive watching, although falling asleep is ok too. Being a participant of you is the work. People do the work and there are no incorrect responses. The tangible objects of Hubbard act as catalyst. Results may vary—being present is necessary. Terms of the medium point to what’s next. Extending the ground and image plane cheat the stages and constructions. Dimensional physicality and space become more than forgotten emptiness. What steps out into yonder is a performance into environment. The body and the camera become the same. There is a traceability that comes back to the world.

We are subject to ourselves. Not permanent, but highly susceptible. The tool of photography is not of issue; there are problems in use. Hubbard recognizes fast relationships toward images. Her work inaugurates internal receptions of the camera and photography. Why do we see what we think we see? Question perception. What are you a part of? Acknowledge participation. Finding is fueled by emptying the frame. All becomes precise. Parts are allowed into the concept and imagery of photography. People orient—‘bodiness’ is shared. Thinking is circular.

Be sure to catch Katherine Hubbard’s solo show up now at Baxter Street Camera Club of New York. To see more of her work click here.

© Katherine Hubbard: Bring Your Own Lights

© Katherine Hubbard: Bring Your Own Lights

© Katherine Hubbard: Cylinders Cones and Edges

© Katherine Hubbard: Cylinders Cones and Edges

© Katherine Hubbard: Back On Back

© Katherine Hubbard: Back On Back

May Lin Le Goff: Tada

May Lin Le Goff: Tada

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

Photography can be as much about constructed image as it is about the story it communicates. May Lin Le Goff moves past first impressions. Identities in her works are not removed; they are looking to be filled. Familiar features are obliterated. The magic of an effaced human is present. Le Goff pastes, cuts, and tears through colorful images creating often-fanciful creatures. Theirs is an aesthetic of confusion, wonder, and possibility. These images are as gestural as they are irreverent. The disorder and obscurity of a once familiar body plays on the desire to understand. The only way to craft an identity is to realize that you don’t know who you are. But you want to.

These works are about the drive to know thy-self.

Le Goff reconciles a struggle of concepts and materials. Processes drive through aesthetics and an exploration of gender is divulged. But maybe not specific or individual. Collective. Color thoughtful pleased and garnered in innate playfulness of emotion. Shapes reviewed from an archive of identified beauty. Le Goff’s deliberate experimentations resonate each other and establish a vocabulary of, what she calls, love things. Chosen elements, stolen concepts that lead to fluidity infuse the works’ possibility. The frustration she expresses in figuring out is resolved by the equilibrium and philosophy after the art. The driven making is a wondrous tool that formulates new citizenry in the frames of Le Goff’s design.

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

Ideals of beauty. Is that feminine?

Feminism is about common sense. It’s subversive. The nature of knowing what a thing is communicates its character. Transformation in a changeling obverts the original intent of these images’ photography. They expand personal history—behold new life. Forms and figures are a mixture of places where Le Goff’s work finds comfort. Recognizing actions and connections reformed in reconstruction remodel amazing freaks. There is still work to do. Curious community woven inside a soundscape of ignited choreography. Modern perspectives of gender abash societal norms of objectification. Women are more. Perfection is vague. Temperament and physicality are unrealistic. Insides out are expressive and Le Goff is after a unique beauty. The blossom of that quiddity connects many things in many ways. Strongest of all, Le Goff’s playa begins with this base. Anything is possible in the saturate of such diverse polychromatic resonance.

See more of May Lin Le Goff’s work by clicking here.

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

© May Lin Le Goff

Fear, Daring, Hexed. Patricia Voulgaris

Fear, Daring, Hexed. Patricia Voulgaris

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

In the folds of minds and flesh an archenemy emerges. Planes of vexing paper and pounds of ached emotion light the locomotive of Patricia Voulgaris. She is the source of her own photography’s virulent creature. Intimate and unfamiliar the craft of her image is constant and mercurial. No mercy in that merriment. The body is forgiven; it is transformed and greater than original intent. Compounded in deep contrast the woman becomes a strangely biopic alien. Life form founded in a protuberant voluptuous narrative. The eloquence of trickery and thieves slumbers in the boundaries of possible connections and communication.

The space is of daring pursuit. The conflict of identity is pushed. Quality of things is important. Surfaces react. First layers seep in, seeking sounds in liminal volume. The process of Voulgaris’ making expands convalescence from perfection. Torn and irate, irrational and wonderful. What is desired is projected into the imagery. These creatures are of strength to those around it. The body expresses translations of reactions to things personal and declared. Complexity refined, refunded by impulse. In its simplicity the imagery begets its own clarity. Confounded reality.

Choose sight, outside of a group.

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

Lightning strikes of flash outfit these forms, laying wake to paling whites and precise blacks. They are a catastrophe, a cacophony, adorned and experimental—results variant in piquant hunger. Resounding newness and bric-a-brac components are somehow formulated in archaic language. Obfuscated, they are inescapably of the Earth. The camera is a cheated paradox of reality; that fact makes case in the hands of Voulgaris. It is wielded and those falsehoods become realities. Fidelity of the things humanness is questionable, but behind all faithfulness there is something deeper.

The self is not solid here. What can be seen is temporary. Overlapped, warren, plastique, quagmire. Emotive tissues, brute of metamorphosis, theories shrouded sympathetic. Spaces lacked near concentrated definition are of things and qualities deeper and downed, not face value. Polemic practice embroidered by imaginative poetic detritus. The common ground inside people is swelled by this imagery. Voulgaris is exonerated because she is no longer specific; that vessel is used to refine a uniqueness that is absurd in its universal fascination. Creatures are not defined by their specific likeness—only by their humility and ability for adaptation.

To see Efrem Zelony-Mindell’s words and Patricia Voulgaris’ work featured in print check out Rubber Factory Posters. For more of Patricia Voulgaris’ work click here.

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

© Patricia Voulgaris

Bill Jacobson: figure, ground

Bill Jacobson: figure, ground

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in Efrem Zelony-Mindell | No Comments

Stand in front of an infinite horizon. Space stretches out there; it seems forever. Thoughtful in its discreet uncertainty. A flat Earth almost makes sense here. The latitude provided is filled by looking and the reflections eyes can fill it with. Construction of will forms a journey of the things we each distinctly live with. Viewing the backs of folks gazing out into this blurring beyond is sort of away. Bill Jacobson’s figure, ground at Julie Saul Gallery is distinct and solid. The edges of figures are at odds with the nature, yet also somehow not. Traces of the body are out in landscape, lines on lines, forms flock straights but never straight. Feelings forming stillness in the background of the photographs. Jacobson makes a significant note when the plane behind the subject is referenced, “That’s the foreground to the viewer in the image.” These pictures are quite inside themselves, a spectacular universe of subtle slander to photography. Always headed one way, but never quite the result of expectation.

Watching interactions take light in certain sensitivity becomes hard to quantify. What are you looking at? Not really knowing is ok; working through takes a good amount of time. Knowing yourself is equally as difficult. So are conclusions. That introspective state motivates the qualities of Jacobson’s imagery. Color, black and white, a confusion of shapes and sizes. Genders are not nearly as significant as posture and pose. Light touches everything with the focus of mouth and mind. How does an individual figure out what’s real and what is pretend? Escape. Try too much, or not at all. Rhetoric quaint, repose physique, repurpose space, reinhabit nature. Try to make the pieces all fit—in a place totally forgotten. Get back—it feels like it’s coming from inside—hidden becomes unrecognized, open and explorative.

Does abstract exist?

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

Built up. Analysis and possibility, climb up high and fall down far. Pieces are real, parts are physical, space is filled in matter. What stretches in front of the people in figure, ground is not just trees and landscape. The space between them exists; there are no empty holes. It may be invisible but that place between is activated. Jacobson’s work has a different kind of void. Spend time and think, there is common knowledge and understanding. Think about everything. Trust in you. Is there something real? Is there something true? Don’t turn back. The face is indiscriminate, the languid quality of body is much more purposeful. And then the wind in field—picks up across that well. That wonderful blur, in space curled up in time. What could they possibly be thinking? About selves and sounds and minds or madness. All kinds of uncertain wonderful things.

Almost heard in noise something distinct but not quite thunder. The strength of the imagery is in outlines and semblance. Who’s to blame? Only Jacobson. Listen to vision, it’s nearly written down. People come around for fair or for folly. Neither is wrong. All is fair game. figure, ground is honed in these distinct explorations of collocate. The show is of viewers viewing viewers—visions vast, vexing, valued. That is a shameless act, not quite voyeuristic. All is layered, never absolute. Lacking in specificity, but allowing in adaptability. Do the people in the images become the people looking at the pictures? Or do they remain separate?

Bill Jacobson’s figure, ground is showing at Julie Saul Gallery through May 13th. To see more of Jacobson’s work click here.

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

© Bill Jacobson

 

Close Encounters: Reframing Family Photography

Close Encounters: Reframing Family Photography

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Qiana Mestrich | No Comments

This is my last guest blog post and it’s been an honor to share my thoughts about contemporary photography with the Baxter St/CCNY audience. I wanted to end my guest blogging stint with a post about an upcoming continuing education course I will be teaching at the School at the International Center of Photography.

Titled Close Encounters: Reframing Family Photography, this course focuses on historical and contemporary representations of family. It is intended to expose students to the range of artists and photographers who have used their cameras to define their concept of family. Though weekly critiques, in this class students will also begin or continue to develop their own body of family work.

Below you’ll find more of the course description plus select images that played like a slideshow in my head when I was thinking about the photographers whose work I wanted to discuss in this course:

Capturing the immediate family as subject matter has almost always been considered a form of vernacular photography, and yet some photographers have made it a part of their life’s work—thus confirming or contesting official discourses of race, gender, and sexuality.

Moving beyond simple snapshots of domestic scenes and the heteronormative, “nuclear” family, this course reexamines the genre of family photography and investigates its cultural politics and new importance, as it is being redefined by historical events such as migration/immigration and queer visibility.

Throughout the term, we will look at and address the family work of a diverse selection of historical and contemporary photographers, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Elinor Carucci, Emmet Gowin, Catherine Opie, Carrie Mae Weems, and other artists, such as LaToya Ruby Frazier, Zanele Muholi, and many more.

Top Image: Renee Cox. Olympia’s Boyz, 2001.

Julia Margaret Cameron. Prayer and Praise, 1865.

Julia Margaret Cameron. Prayer and Praise, 1865.

Lyle Ashton Harris. The Child, 1994.

Lyle Ashton Harris. The Child, 1994.

Catherine Opie. Self portrait / Nursing, 2004.

Catherine Opie. Self portrait / Nursing, 2004.

Emmet Gowin. Edith and Elijah, Newtown (Pennsylvania), 1974.

Emmet Gowin. Edith and Elijah, Newtown (Pennsylvania), 1974.

LaToya Ruby Frazier. Grandma Ruby and Me. From the

LaToya Ruby Frazier. Grandma Ruby and Me. From the “Notion of Family” series, 2001 – 2014.

For more information or to register, visit the Close Encounters: Reframing Family Photography course page on the ICP School website. This is a 5-week, course that will run on Mondays from 6:30-9:30pm from May 22 through June 26, 2017. 

Also note, in June of this year I will also be teaching a one-weekend course titled Layered Narratives: Visualizing Stories Through Photocollage.


Qiana Mestrich is a photographer, writer, digital marketer and mother from Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder of Dodge & Burn: Decolonizing Photography History, a blog that seeks to establish a more inclusive history of photography, highlighting contributions to the medium by and about people of underrepresented cultures.

Read her other guest posts on the Baxter St blog:

Photography at the 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial
Conversation with Marco Scozzaro on Digital Deli
Five Visual Motifs in the Photographs of Ren Hang
Photography and the Black Panther Party
The Black Female Self in Landscape
In Memoriam: John Berger and Uses of Photography Quotes
Forthcoming Photobooks by African American and Black African Photographers
New Image Library Specializes in Race and Cultural Diversity

Photography at the 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial

Photography at the 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Qiana Mestrich | No Comments

This past Sunday the 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial: Greatest Love of All opened at chashama at XOCO 325 to a packed crowd of NYC art lovers and creatives of all kinds. This year, I had the honor of being invited to submit work and was accepted into the second edition of this unique group show which features only women artists, a move I can only attribute as a response to the gender inequality that is so rampant in more “established” art exhibitions.

No surprise this underdog biennial had already gotten TV and press coverage before it opened, so the line to get in was a block long. As I made my way into the exhibition space with my family, our eyes/hearts/minds became full of the glorious spectacle that is this all-female group show. The exhibition space itself is small but the floor-to-ceiling, salon-style hanging is democratic and accommodates humans of all sizes. My son and other children I saw there were thrilled by the work at their eye level.

Part of the artist submission process included having to write about a pioneering female that inspired your work. This requirement was easy for me given my current obsession with the black, PreRaphaelite model Fanny Eaton who I wrote about for the show. So not only is the show a visual celebration, but it also honors female legends big and small like Ms. Houston and 125 other women who have marked the world.

For me the biennial was a great way to discover new artists and below I highlighted the photographs, collages and lens-based images that were some of my favorites. All are available for purchase on the 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial website. The WHB is on view until March 29th so be sure check the website for other readings, panels, performances and other events.

Featured (Top) Image: Suzanne Wright – “8 Shuttles”

Nichole Washington -

Nichole Washington – “I Considered Her My Blood and it don’t come no Thicker”

 

Marissa Long - "Forever Melon"

Marissa Long – “Forever Melon”

 

Juliana Paciulli - "Uh-huh (Basketball)"

Juliana Paciulli – “Uh-huh (Basketball)”

Gianna Leo Falcon -

@emothug84 – “No Love”

Nick Alciati - "xoxo, Darlene (Bedroom View)"

Nick Alciati – “xoxo, Darlene (Bedroom View)”

Maureen Catbagan -

Maureen Catbagan – “Hidden Sites – Blanton Museum Stairwell”

Nasrah Omar - "Azia 2"

Nasrah Omar – “Azia 2”

 


Qiana Mestrich is a photographer, writer, digital marketer and mother from Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder of Dodge & Burn: Decolonizing Photography History, a blog that seeks to establish a more inclusive history of photography, highlighting contributions to the medium by and about people of underrepresented cultures.

Read her other guest posts on the Baxter St blog:
Conversation with Marco Scozzaro on Digital Deli
Five Visual Motifs in the Photographs of Ren Hang
Photography and the Black Panther Party
The Black Female Self in Landscape
In Memoriam: John Berger and Uses of Photography Quotes
Forthcoming Photobooks by African American and Black African Photographers
New Image Library Specializes in Race and Cultural Diversity

Conversation with Marco Scozzaro on Digital Deli at Baxter St

Conversation with Marco Scozzaro on Digital Deli at Baxter St

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in Qiana Mestrich | No Comments

Qiana Mestrich: Can you talk to me a little bit about the title and its reference to NYC bodegas (neighborhood convenience stores)?

Marco Scozzaro: That was the starting point. The work is an exploration of the current visual vernacular and I wanted to take different elements from the visual landscape and digest and work with them to create multilayered photographs and sculptures. As you can see the work is very diverse and in a way I like this idea of the deli as a place where you can find everything and anything… opposite elements that by being in the same space kind of make sense together. I’m playing a lot with natural vs. artificial/synthetic and opposite elements that seem unrelated but in the way I work with them they become organic.

Marco Scozarro. BETA 909, 2016.

Marco Scozarro. BETA 909, 2016.

This piece BETA 909 is where the project started from, the backdrop is a vinyl tablecloth that I found in a 99cents store in my neighborhood in Williamsburg, BK. In this still life I use obsolete technology like a Beta VHS player and a drum machine that I use to make music. I like the idea of the cheapness of the background that references nature against these electronic objects that were futuristic when they came out but are now obsolete and almost organic in this constructed image. So  these elements don’t seem related but to me they make sense. From this point on I started playing with images and opposites, incorporating visual tropes or cultural artifacts like a Calvin Klein advertisement or referencing commercial photography, even appropriating my own work. In a way this work is a comment on the identity of photography and the inherent paradox of representation.

Marco Scozzaro. DAMASO LUNARE, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. DAMASO LUNARE, 2016.

Is this a departure from the way you usually work or is more of you having a conversation with contemporary trend(s) in photography?

I wouldn’t say it’s a departure but I’m definitely exploring new possibilities and being open to new layers of interpretation. This image titled DAMASO LUNARE is what my previous work looked like. I guess the subject matter is very related. I’ve always been interested in exploring the relationship between society and personal identity. The previous work was more existential and with this new project I’m talking about the same things but using humor and adopting different strategies to deliver the same message. I’m also trying to make the work more accessible. I realize that the first layer of my images seems funny but if you dig deeper they’re not as accessible.

Marco Scozzaro. OMINY TANDINY, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. OMINY TANDINY, 2016.

There’s definitely a lot to unpack in all of these images. They look simple on the surface and they’re very attractive and shiny but there’s lots of symbolism. I feel like there some larger social statement you’re trying to convey.

There is, I’m glad you noticed that. It’s not just a collection of nice pictures. I’ve always been interested in not glamorizing an image and non-conventional beauty but sometimes that intention has been misunderstood. I like playing with different languages in photography. I’m using still life, landscape… I’m rephotographing my pictures.

Marco Scozzaro. 516N0RJ1N4 D16174L3, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. 516N0RJ1N4 D16174L3, 2016.

Yet there’s also decay and death and playing with the idea of the vanitas, not literally but in that same still life tradition.

Sure! In this picture 516N0RJ1N4 D16174L3, for example I’m making a comment on stereotypical images of the female body in mass media. This is an appropriated ASCII alphanumeric code. I found it interesting that this silhouette of a woman was totally unrelated to the content of the document where I found the image. And then I pasted the silhouette on a photograph of a landscape, that I made using film. Actually most of this work was shot on film, so I became very interested in this idea of using hybrid technology as a consequence of what the work is dealing with.

Marco Scozzaro. DIGITAL CLOUDS, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. DIGITAL CLOUDS, 2016.

There’s also a sculptural quality in your work. The largest piece in the show is a blanket. Is that an image you’ve taken as well?

Yes, all of these images are mine. If there’s any appropriation it’s an image that has been rephotographed or inserted into my composition, like the Calvin Klein advertisement or the Giant Single record sleeve. That image titled DIGITAL CLOUDS on the blanket was a photograph I exhibited at Aperture last summer (Aperture Summer Open: Photography is Magic, curated by Charlotte Cotton). I’ve been thinking and playing around the idea of different materials and how they work with photographs. So at some point I found these digitally woven blankets – you have a jacquard loom that you can hook up to a computer to weave an image. The machine deconstructs the image in six threads to recreate all the colors. I like that this image was shot on film, then scanned and now it has a new life as a woven blanket instead of a print. And it’s also interesting as a “meta photographic concept” because the blanket references the blanket in the image.

Installation view of PALMS ON PALMS over BLANKETTO, 2016.

Installation view of PALMS ON PALMS over BLANKETTO, 2016.

It looks very painterly as well, so you’re tying multiple mediums together: the art of weaving, painting, photography…

Exactly. Also like this piece PALMS ON PALMS over BLANKETTO, which is one of the newest pieces… as you notice I’m trying to expand the two-dimensionality of photography in the space. The pictures themselves become objects. This particular fluorescent plexiglass that the photographs are back mounted on cast a glow on the white walls.

Installation view of Marco Scozzaro's Digital Deli solo show at Baxter St in NYC.

Installation view of Marco Scozzaro’s Digital Deli solo show at Baxter St in NYC.

In this sculptural piece titled TUBBI, 2016 I wanted again to use opposites, images coming from fields that seem unrelated like rocks or a glitch from my computer or tiles or a pool or clouds and a carpet. The cylinder shape references the way you roll the paper when you make a large print that you just put on the floor and it stays in that shape. So I found a technical solution to let the prints stay in shape there a little longer… I like the idea of having these elements linked together, they become just texture. In a democratic way they are in the same space like when you are viewing multiple images on the monitor of your computer.

Marco Scozzaro. SVIAGGIONI, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. SVIAGGIONI, 2016.

I would say SVIAGGIONI is the mood board for the project. I started taking visual notes with my iPhone and then at some point I realized there was something going on. The photos were re-posted to my Instagram and tumblr, so I had a template and I would see the pictures on my monitor in random order and in slightly different sizes. I printed all those pictures and played around with them and then I made a book. I photographed the book for a magazine feature (OSMOS) and I thought the picture itself was more interesting than the whole book. Then I rephotographed the image of my book in the magazine using different nail polish on the same hands holding the book open.

I thought it was interesting to have this double meaning that reflects the paradox of representation. This mood board combined organic with non-organic elements, associated by the color or shape, creating something visually pleasing but at the same time creating a starting point for new relations. From that book I realized I was working on something but I wasn’t 100% happy with the small prints so I used them as the starting point to make new images – either sculptures in the studio or created in post-production.

Detail of PLEASE and TUBBI, 2016, both by Marco Scozzaro.

Detail of PLEASE and TUBBI, 2016, both by Marco Scozzaro.

What about the word “Please” in this wallpaper?

Please was a way to explore the “bodega vernacular” like Thank you for your business or Have a nice day graphics on plastic bags… So I photographed those 80s/90s fonts, isolated the word “please” and started making this repeated pattern similar to the red carpet backgrounds with the sponsors on them that celebrities are photographed in front of. This piece is making a comment on how sometimes we’re over apologetic and over thankful and this gesture doesn’t even mean anything.

Marco Scozzaro. SMILE!, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. SMILE!, 2016.

Yeah it’s not genuine, it’s just our own programming.

This way of working allowed me to play with text. Like this piece SMILE! I photographed this hot dog stand in midtown. I was on the street and I saw this grumpy hot dog guy and someone just passed and said “You’re never gonna sell a hotdog if you don’t smile!” And I thought that phrase was a metaphorical way of describing our society.

Marco Scozzaro. ISLE OF MOTTE, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. ISLE OF MOTTE, 2016.

Do you think this work is a statement on American culture or is there a more of a world view here?

It definitely starts from an American point of view. I’m not American but I’ve been living here for seven years assimilating into the culture of course. Also I realize that I grew up with Western influence through television. I don’t want to talk about American imperialism but there is a cultural hegemony that in a way is coming back. Now as an adult being here and experiencing everyday American life a lot of it seems like déjà vu and I’m starting to understand the messages that I couldn’t understand as a kid.

Marco Scozzaro. VISA, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. VISA, 2016.

The work definitely talks about mass media and how our perception is influenced by them. Like this image of the Hawaiian shirt and the VISA credit card, which is also a reference to my own situation as an immigrant… These are not literal but hidden or unconscious links, thoughts that come to mind when I look at the images after the fact.

Marco Scozzaro. GIANT SINGLE, 2016.

Marco Scozzaro. GIANT SINGLE, 2016.

It’s nice because the aesthetic is not overtly political but as you dig deeper you do get some undertones.

I didn’t want to make political work but I realize that…

Everything is political.

Exactly. Especially looking at what is going on now in America, I see this work as very political. For example, in Italy we had Prime Minister Berlusconi who as a media tycoon became a politician because of his fortune and influence. So in a way with Trump we are kind of seeing the same thing happening. I didn’t want to mention Trump because he’s not relevant here but I think the work is observing what mass media can do, good or bad. So I wanted to create images that look good but also give a starting point for a conversation that is not about being frivolous.

Installation view of Marco Scozzaro's Digital Deli solo show at Baxter St in NYC.

Installation view of Marco Scozzaro’s Digital Deli solo show at Baxter St in NYC.

Marco Scozzaro’s solo show, Digital Deli, is on view at Baxter St now through March 25, 2017.


 

Qiana Mestrich is a photographer, writer, digital marketer and mother from Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder of Dodge & Burn: Decolonizing Photography History, a blog that seeks to establish a more inclusive history of photography, highlighting contributions to the medium by and about people of underrepresented cultures.

Read her other guest posts on the Baxter St blog:
Five Visual Motifs in the Photographs of Ren Hang
Photography and the Black Panther Party
The Black Female Self in Landscape
In Memoriam: John Berger and Uses of Photography Quotes
Forthcoming Photobooks by African American and Black African Photographers
New Image Library Specializes in Race and Cultural Diversity

Five Visual Motifs In the Photographs of Ren Hang

Five Visual Motifs In the Photographs of Ren Hang

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Qiana Mestrich | No Comments

On February 24th after suffering from a deep depression, Chinese photographer Ren Hang took his own life just weeks before his 30th birthday. Despite his young age, Hang leaves behind a large body of photographic work. Known for his “racy”, erotic images, Hang’s photographs visualized a provocative and constructed world that simultaneously referenced a uniquely Chinese aesthetic and contemporary youth culture.

When I look at Hang’s work, I am less interested in his exposure of genitalia and the titillating effect of his images. As a photographer, I’m drawn to his storytelling techniques, specifically the aesthetic patterns that emerge when seeing the work as a whole. In memoriam I’d like to highlight five visual motifs that Hang repeatedly employed to thus create his signature style. 

 

The Color Red
Considered the most popular color in China as evident by the red field featured in the country’s flag, Hang used this symbolic color in a variety of ways. In traditional Chinese culture, red is associated with celebration and creativity, good fortune and joy. In its most political meaning, red is associated with communism or socialism which in this case may relate to the form of government Hang was always in conflict with.

In Hang’s images you’ll often see red painted on the lips and/or nails of his female models and also as a backdrop color. Whether a face is immersed in crimson-colored bathwater, or as in this image where both model and snake are laying on red bedsheets, Hang uses the same blood-red shade to highlight an idea or frame his subjects.

 

Polycephaly
Popularized in literature by Greek mythological creatures, polycephaly is a condition of having more than one head that can also realistically occur in animals and humans. In several images, Hang has played with the concept of a double-headed being, focusing less on the condition itself and more on the idea of two that share a body. In other images, he’s posed his models to resemble a multi-limbed being, an act that comes across as pure play, fitting bodies together in an exploration of the fantastical human form.


Hair

Sporting medium to long, black hair, Hang’s female models uphold stereotypical and historical visions of Asian femininity. Draped over faces and limbs, jet black hair shines in the glare of Hang’s almost-violent flash lighting. In the art of dream interpretation, hair is recognized as a symbol of sensuality, seduction and vanity – all descriptors commonly used to interpret Hang’s work.  


Flora

Hang often staged his images in nature and in his studio shots, cut flowers and various types of exotic flora also appear, sometimes competing with the model(s) for the viewer’s attention. In the above image, the cherry blossom tree obscures the model as its intricate branches and blossoms dominate the frame. A historical symbol of desire and sexuality, Hang has used various species of flora ranging from the innocuous tulip to the Anthurium with its sexy, patent-leather like red leaves and erect pistil.


Birds

Lastly, one can’t help but notice the winged creatures in Hang’s images. Although domesticated animals (like reptiles and cats) mingle amongst naked bodies, the birds are limp, tamed, as if to be prepared for consumption. Not knowing for sure I insist they are dead or at least taxidermy, as I can’t fathom any bird would cooperate in such foreign, artificial conditions. Hang’s repeat use of birds seems obsessive. He even poses his own mother in the series My Mum with an excess of doves, ducks, peacocks and swans.

In his most complex compositions, Hang arranged several of these motifs together to make a single, confounding image. And though there are bodies, except in the case of his mother, there are no characters. Alive or not, Hang arranges his subjects like objects. It is because of this that I’ve come to appreciate Hang’s work as still life photography. RIP Ren Hang.


 

Qiana Mestrich is a photographer, writer, digital marketer and mother from Brooklyn, NY. She is the founder of Dodge & Burn: Decolonizing Photography History, a blog that seeks to establish a more inclusive history of photography, highlighting contributions to the medium by and about people of underrepresented cultures.

Read her other guest posts on the Baxter St blog:
Photography and the Black Panther Party
The Black Female Self in Landscape
In Memoriam: John Berger and Uses of Photography Quotes
Forthcoming Photobooks by African American and Black African Photographers
New Image Library Specializes in Race and Cultural Diversity