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by Jody Zellen

August 3, 2023

Sculpture into Photography
Moskowitz Bayse
July 15 - August 19, 2023

Sculpture into Photography

Sculpture into Photography is a group exhibition that takes a contemporary approach to a show that was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1970: Photography into Sculpture, which received both praise and criticism. It celebrated a more expansive approach to "photography" that went beyond "flat prints" in the documentary style. The exhibition was one of the first to present photography as "art," a subject that continued to be debated over the years. Robert Heinecken was in the MOMA show and is also represented at Moskowitz Bayse with the iconic work Fractured Figure Segments from 1970.

The fifteen artists included in the exhibition take an experimental approach to photography, fashioning images into sculptures in addition to collaging and cutting apart their pictures (as Heinecken did), as well as working with video and digital technologies. While Sculpture into Photography is in no way inclusive, it serves as an introduction to a number of artists working today who are interested in challenging the commonplace, technical, illusionistic and conceptual parameters of the medium.

Along with Heinecken's works (also on view is TV Diner from 1971, a crinkled hand-colored image of a TV dinner printed on linen), the other "historical" works are by Barbara Kasten. nstruct NYC 9 and onstruct XXII (both 1984) are Cibachrome photographs of assorted mirrors and objects assembled to be photographed from a fixed vantage point. These share a kinship with Anthony Lepore's 2023 Looking at Each Other in the Mirror, a large-scale, Trompe-l'oeil image comprised of wooden supports, some with red edges, that are both shelves and a frame simultaneously. While it appears to be a geometric abstraction, it is also a physical object dramatically lit so it comes across as flat and three-dimensional at the same time.

It is always a pleasure to view works by Matt Lipps, here represented by Camera (2013), an arrangement of black and white cut-outs of different types of cameras as well as many other iconic images (culled from Time-Life educational volumes) presented on glass shelves against a red-orange background that appears to be a brightly toned image of an eye. Lipps' arrangements are created to offer new associations and relationships between historical images. While Lipps works with appropriated images, Soo Kim cuts shapes out of her own. In the double-sided, free standing large-scale image The DMZ (Ballad of branches and the trunk (side 1) (2018), Kim has removed most of the information from the original photograph leaving a structure that suggests architecture without providing the details. Seeing through and beyond are also themes Valerie Green explores in works such as I think We're Alone Now (2023), a physically layered black and white image filled with textures and patterns cut into the surface to reveal others below. Though not a static photographic image, Brian Bress' slow moving video HalfZebraHalfAcrylicHalfMan: I turned rainbow, closed my eyes watch my brain glow (2023), is a thirty-two minute loop revealing a costumed yet mostly hidden Bress moving colorful-cut out images along the surface of the screen to subtly change the composition over time.

The artists in the exhibition are interested in expanding the boundaries of photography and while some of their works begin with a photographic referent, they are open to cutting, collaging, drawing on and turing their images into sculpture. With digital technologies and the proliferation of imagery generated with AI, the notion of a "photographic truth" has become even more outdated so creators feel free to push the envelope and manipulate images that were once held sacred into something new and unexpected. Audiences are no longer really wowed by the "wow" factor, so content and the integrity of the artist's intentions is what makes the works in Sculpture into Photography resonate. The relationship between the image and the object it becomes, as well as how the two interact is at the crux of this thought provoking exhibition.