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)”

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

HISTORY IS NOT THE PAST

Posted by on Jun 29, 2013 in Jorge Alberto Perez | No Comments

By Jorge Alberto Perez

For Nona Faustine the restitution of her sense of wholeness as an African American woman and artist manifests in the guise of a restoration of the past, emphasis on guise.  Although we see her marching up the steps of City Hall in Manhattan with nothing on but her white Sunday shoes and a pair of shackles in her left hand…she is not really trying to restore anything. It took me a while to realize it.

Samsonella1KH_130127_0472

Her on-going photography and installation project Reconstructions is precisely that – reconstructions that attempt to replace something that was lost in the history of Blacks in America.  This should not be confused with an attempt to relive the past through reenactment. Faustine’s images are more like markers that indicate a place, an institution, an event or a person so that with her presence on that spot she does not merely remember them for the sake of remembering, she rewrites a new history for them. There on the steps of City Hall’s Renaissance Revival facade that abuts a slave burial ground or standing on her soap box at the intersection of Water and Wall Streets where a market once trafficked in humans, she is the fearless daughter of them all, the new Venus of Willendorf reborn to reconstruct a history, the ultimate act of fecundity.

Wall1KH_130310_0959 copy

Faustine easily acknowledges the impossibility of getting at what is essential with this task she has set for herself, because to reconstruct a history is an altogether different action than to restore one. Hers is not an attempt to historicize the present but to re-write the past. She did the research, discovered who bought and sold black slaves in colonial New York, and where, and how they were transported in and out of the city. But there is no Aushwitz or Treblinka for the victims of slavery in America despite the common knowledge that an estimated 10-12 million Africans died in the Middle Passage alone, and countless others succumbed to starvation, physical abuse and disease once on these shores. In a way the images function as memorials that she makes herself, one at a time, with her body, the naked truth of its blackness braced against a cold city, reconstructing a narrative where the enslaved has dignity and is not afraid.

http://nonafaustine.virb.com

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE POSITION OF THE SUBJECT

Posted by on Jun 15, 2013 in Jorge Alberto Perez | No Comments

By Jorge Alberto Perez

In Roberto Vietri’s ongoing project, Trabalho, there is a distinctive visual vocabulary in action that is easy to recognize but vague in its message – and I like that. It is not just that individual images are “open-ended” – the project itself is porous. He photographs marks and traces just as fastidiously as places and spaces with the potential to be marked, to have a trace put upon them. Some images are only straight-forwardly documented where in others he has ‘intervened’ with an action to alter the position of the subject – and consequently, how we will see it. In other cases he is the agent of the mark on the surface of the photographic print itself. It becomes difficult to know which is which except with time and very careful looking – which might be precisely the point. Vietri wants us to know and not know what we are seeing, to question what is true and which is, well, less true. He wants to make us aware of the act of looking and how we make meaning – especially when that moment occurs when the image shifts from document to arena for a mark. Like a seamless conversation, each functions as a springboard to the next, and back to a previous one.

 

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http://www.robertovietri.com 

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE ORIGINAL CHAOS

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Jorge Alberto Perez | No Comments

 

 
It is rare to meet an artist with so much talent in so many mediums as Gloria Duque, whose extreme modesty and humility is equally impressive. She is just as comfortable working with you-name-it, a camera, paint, scratchboard, bronze sculpture, or even what any of us might consider trash  – all to satisfy a workaholic drive to interpret her world.  And what an interesting world it is, where permanence feels fragile, and impermanence is palpable, where clouds drop down from the sky heavy as sack of laundry and dollar bills appear to have been dipped in technicolor rainbows. She lives and works in a small apartment in Spanish Harlem in what can only be described as a state of original chaos where only the process of creation matters and materializes endlessly. Obessive, check. Cumpulsive, check.  Talented, check. I have always been fascinated by artistic practice, artists’ studios and the process that feeds artistic hunger.  Duque does not disappoint.  When we first met she mentioned that she can only have one guest at a time in her apartment, so long as one of the two remains standing. I was intrigued.  The explanation went on to include a list of materials covering every surface of her apartment: a democracy of things like…egg shells, branches, chop sticks, corks, wires, rubber bands, candy foil, beans, seeds, pods, feathers, dried orange peels, and lot of completed art works stacked everywhere… I thought she was joking, or at least exaggerating. She wasn’t.  Her apartment is itself an amazing work of art, impossible to take in, overwhelming and yet calming somehow. I sat down (actually we both stood) with her recently to discuss the nature of her work.
 
Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

 
What is your education/training in?

My training is in architecture and product design.  As per my training, my professors encouraged my unique language of observations and motivated me to think beyond the parameters of any dialogue. Understanding the materials one chooses to work with is the most important thing but not just their potentiality but their ability to fail.  I was challenged by my tutors to solve riddles, to come up with design answers to almost impossible statements (enunciados), to materialize ideas like The House of the South Wind, to be open to interpretation without representation.  During my years in architecture school, I discovered that my hands became more useful tools for expressing ideas than words had previously been.  Anything I could perform with them was a magical transformation of ideas into objects… free or mechanical drawing, model making, ceramics, watercolor and later painting and illustration.

What role does photography play in your artistic practice?

Photography is the most magical aspect of my work, the convergence point where ideas begin to develop.  Taking a picture of something in the world that corresponds to a feeling or notion that is still embryonic is the best way for me to move forward with that idea.  It is the first step in what might be a long series of steps of process leading to a finished artwork. The camera was my first creative tool of choice to see the world differently. I established my first creative dialogue with this medium while studying architecture. It became a pivotal way to create new interpretations and points of view and at the same time it helped me to keep records and tell my stories, for the safekeeping of my history and memory as many others had done before me. Photography, by its very nature is an invitation to explore the world beyond the common and make fluid our perceptions. Digital has also made it possible for me to indulge even more with its instantaneity. I freeze time, virtually as time is/was, and yet I continue the exercise of observation and as images accumulate the storytelling begins, a destiny I seem to have chosen, I relate it, I take it, I retrieve it … later I transform those conversations mediated by the camera into objects, another translation.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Cloud Project"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Cloud Project”

 
From the Series "Cloud Project" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Cloud Project” by Gloria Duque

 
 
What is your preferred medium?

My preferred medium is objects, so long as they are palpable with my eyes or my skin, perhaps heard or smelled in connection to their visual presentations. To me, they exist to be placed, misplaced, read … or ignored. Taken in account or not, objects simultaneously offer a proposal of possibility and the challenge of three-dimensionalizing them. This challenge has to do with meaning, with reference. Their purpose is changeable, transmutable. There is an unexpected beauty in each of them and in its relationship with its environment, its context.  There are an infinite number of possibilities for the untold significance and impressiveness of each of them. We choose one of their possibilities to transform them into storytellers, messengers of some sort … to provoke a reaction, identify a purpose… a catalyst… a trigger, short or long-lived, who knows. At this point, each object has its own destiny. Objects of desire, I call them. 2D, 3D, B & W, color, palpable by one, two or all of your senses; objects in any sense of the word … as per in the goal to be achieved too … where the object, besides of being what it is, has a purpose … In doing so, something that has no movement of its own, no mind, obtains an intention, it has an objective, a mission. It acquires an imperceptible movement to the eyes and transcendence in other levels. It becomes philosophical in some way.  In my eyes it separates itself from interpretation, individual feelings and imaginings; it becomes a proposer. I call that OBJECTIVITY and it all begins with ideas nascent in the process of image capture.

How many projects are you currently working on?

Do you mean at the actual moment?  Time behaves oddly in my studio. Well, besides designing a living space for some friends, there are a few projects I play with constantly and intermittently. Their scale and the time I can dedicate to them are determined by their gravitational pull, my choice, and the emotions seeking for a place in which to be invested. The smaller projects are currently the most visited.  They are smaller in scale, but not vastness (cloud project, cows, bodies and constellations, mas allá, after dark, joy and despair, I had it, every thing talks to me, twos & ones). The larger projects, the ones that require more of my full attention, efforts and dedication include: architecture of dreams, canvases, Explorations, grafted graffiti, quilts of guilt, ugly is beautiful, filtered visions, seven, güevonadas and the philosophical component of I had it. Most of my series intersect with one another, or overlap at least, or branches out of each other and back together. I can say all my work is part of a web, a fabric, invisible strings in the middle of which I reside.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Bodies and Constellations"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Bodies and Constellations”

From the Series "Bodies and Constellations" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Bodies and Constellations” by Gloria Duque

What is your relationship to the materials you use?

I will say extreme. There is no one thing I use that I am not in a deep relationship with. I get immersed into perceptual and verbal conversations with each material I use. We become extensions of each other, and in so doing, we both become storytellers, simultaneously both being the witnesses and that which is witnessed.  We become timeless and time makers, meaning that we fuse past, present and future in one existence were the first two components have more and stronger identifiable characteristics than its unpredictable companion.  No material that I encounter is exempt from being a candidate for use in art.  And I mean anything.  I have many collections of things: rubber bands of every shape, color and size, used tea bags, tangerine peels carved into figural shapes, all kind of metallic wrappers rolled into balls, the list is endless… I rescue, recycle and reuse a lot in my practice.

From the series "Twos & Ones" by Gloria Duque

From the series “Twos & Ones” by Gloria Duque

How does your home as your studio influence your practice?

My home as my studio… I certainly can say that when I make art I feel at home. Whereas I like austerity, cleanliness and the elegance of minimalism – which currently shows more in my designs and photography, I also love abundance and the generosity of the infinite possibilities of interpretation. I could easily live with both, but the city imposes on me one condition: limited space. I could say, I live within the complexity of my thought process and ideas. Of course, they coexist in harmony and with a structural order inherited from my architectural and design practices and processes … I have my own galaxy, perhaps a complete universe of my own to coexist with.

 

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com