“Grey is a Colour, Gray is Color”
November 24th, 2012 to January 19th, 2013
Galerie Nicolas Robert is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Montréal-based artist Lorna Bauer, from November 24th, 2012, to January 19th, 2012. Bauer took part of the Second edition of the Triennale du Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal last year. The vernissage will be held on November 24th, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. in the presence of the artist.
The photographs presented in Grey is a Colour, Gray is a Color were produced in the framework of a residency in New York during the winter/spring of 2012. The exhibition could be described as an anchoring point within a larger body of works devoted to the obsolescence of the North American textile industry. In Bauer’s previous work, she has investigated the tension between the perception of images – still or moving – and the contingency of an event that these (or those) images attempted to record. At first glance, the present body of photographs could signal a break in her way of working, manifesting a newfound interest in the stylistic conventions of street photography. However, Bauer does not attempt to foreground a particular thematic cluster, nor tap into the phenomenology of nineteenth or early twentieth century urban experiencesuch as the overused and melancholic (and invariably male-dominated) trope of the Flaneur. Conversely, she avoids the historical trope of topographical imaging that follows the representation of industrial decay. Aiming the lens on the partially disused storefronts in the textile district of New York, she sets forward to renew ground to investigate once again the tension between the construction of the image and its often pieced-together perception. Formal attributes of the subject at hand (the way things are put together for the viewer or passerby) are the main concern in this exhibition. Thus the display window is chosen because it itself duplicates the photographic picture frame. In these photographs, Bauer also multiplies analogies between the fabric pattern flattened on a pane of glass and the painterly surfaces of say a canvas while simultaneously highlighting the ubiquitous use of digital flatbed scanners in image production. Adding to this, a great attention has been invested in the placement of the images to foreground the relationship between the architectural enclosure of the gallery and its counterpart of the retail-shopping district.
Vilém Flusser devoted part of his book Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983) to the cultural automatisms that distinguishes the black and white and color ontology of lens-based imagery. Because the shades of gray in the representation of a thing or a space create a sense of uniformity, Flusser emphasized that the world restored in black and white is primarily experienced as a set of discrete encoded data. By contrast, the color image provides an illusion that seemingly fits better with the organic and fragmentary quality of human vision. However, according to Flusser, this mimetic feature depends on the assumption of arbitrary equivalence between the perceived world and its analogue representation. For instance, the photographed green of leaves or the red of a fabric swatch are the result of matching precisely the exposure time of a negative during the shooting process and a set of chemical equations when the image is fixated onto a light-sensitive surface.
In the piece Bracket Bauer has juxtaposed three versions of the same image under differing exposure levels (under-exposed, correctly exposed, and over-exposed), this series reveals the process of mathematical encoding described by Flusser. However, the analysis provided by the philosopher is entrenched in a purely technological dimension, and neglects the human affects embedded in an image, which in contrast lies at the heart of Bauer’s practice. In a similar but different series Bauer displays three iterations of an image of a storefront entirely covered with grey paint. This image is repeated throughout the show, again using the process of bracketing as its content. With this work there emerges for the viewer not only a meditation on the technical competencies required to produce a photograph but, as well, a philosophical questioning around differences, repetitions and the slipperiness of perception. The blank grey painted shop front depicted most likely doesn’t exist at the moment of writing these lines, or at the very least has been radically transformed. Besides the indexical rubric of the photographic – Roland Barthes’s “it has been” – conveyed by this image, the façade becomes a kind of blind area, fossilized, or unable to “return” the gaze. Bauer’s work stems from an investigation of the most abstract features of the photographic process. Nevertheless, this new cycle generates metaphors, because the experience of the real always necessitates filling in a gap. These images seem to indicate that there routinely lies a negotiation between what appears and what disappears as a given entity in our relationship to the concrete world of materials and scenes. The void (and absence of meaning) forms the material core of the visible.
(Reworked excepts of a text by Vincent Bonin available on demand at the gallery)