‘It is perfectly natural for the Sun
to shine initially on the upper lefthand
corner of the first page of this book’
Francis Ponge, The Sun Placed in the Abyss
Francis Ponge was referred to as ‘the poet of things’ for his ability to elevate the essence of mundane objects—soap, cigarettes or oranges. The way Alain Robbe-Grillet revitalized furniture in The Erasers, Ponge, like many other Surrealists, deconstructed the confinements of reason and tangible reality, blurring the hierarchy between objects and living things. The most challenging depiction he embarked on arguably was his The Sun Placed in the Abyss essay, in which he articulates on the sun’s metaphoric impact on terrestrials.
Of the summer group exhibitions currently on view in Chelsea, Lower East Side and elsewhere, Foley Gallery’s High Summer, curated by Joseph Desler Costa and Jeremy August Haik, takes account the season’s thriving temperatures in the most literal sense, as well as adopting Ponge’s text as source material. The sun, with all allegories and facts it perpetuates, is the central or auxiliary subject for each piece in the exhibition that features twenty-four lens-based artists. “What is the Sun?” asks Ponge in his essay and adds, “that which dominates all things therefore, cannot be dominated”.
The omnipresence of this yellow sphere is of a kind that is indisputable; unlike any other sources of power—divine or tangible—the sun poses universal and pervasive. Yet, like any other supreme source, the sun destructs as much as it nourishes. On the other hand, the impossibility of having a complete vision of its full extent only augments its mysterious aura.
Penelope Umbrico’s ninety-second long GIF animation, Pirouette for CRT, includes images of outmoded tubed TVs listed on Craigslist for disposal, intricately edited to create a perfect cycle with the way each TV is photographed. Looping gadgets reflect the light on their screens while they continue in their perfect cycle similar to the sun’s journey over a year or the Earth’s in twenty-four hours.
Bobby Davidson’s American Cinematographer Manual, 10th Edition with 36” Fluorescent Tube, one of the few three dimensional works in the exhibition, combines the 10th edition of American Cinematographer Manual—an obsolete source for cinematographers, including Davidson himself—with a fluorescent bar piercing through. Considering the cruciality of the right timbre of the sun for those working with camera, the sculpture, sitting on a custom-made wooden Apple chassis, is self-referential and unabashedly self-mocking.
Works by Dillon DeWaters, Thomas Albdorf, Justine Kurland, Genevieve Gaignard and Bill Jacobson refer to absence of the (or a) sun within the frame, while their juxtapositions claim its impact as evident. The glare the sun radiates as reaction to the camera on the subject matter is another strong motif, emphasized by a group of artists including Pacifico Silano, who photographed men from the pages of the 70s’ gay porn magazines with accents of light glaring on their faces, as well as Erin O’Keefe, Christopher Rodriguez and Tommy Kha, who poignantly utilized the sun’s reflection to blur his model’s identity in his photograph.
High Summer will remain on view at Foley Gallery through August 20, 2016.