During the process of organizing our fall exhibition with Daniel Gordon, I found myself thinking about the relationship between memory and the internet. How are our memories impacted by our shift from a physical space to a predominantly virtual one—a place which is also heavily dominated by photography? The interdisciplinary space of the internet allows ideas and images to collide together, forming endless intersections and interactions that otherwise might not occur so easily. To put it very simply, on the internet, a lemon is never just a lemon; it’s a patchwork of facts, opinions, images, recipes, experiments, gifs…a kaleidoscope of interpretation, meaning, and form. The collaged nature of our everyday virtual experience is brought to life in Daniel’s colorful work and has inspired the development of this issue’s overarching theme—the contemporary, constructed photograph.
As you will see, the photographs discussed in this issue are not simply about darkroom intervention, Photoshop, or staged realities; they are also about the construction of the medium of photography and how it in turn constructs both the artist and the viewer. Our Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator, Erin Miller, expanded on this idea as this issue’s editor, a role you will see her in more frequently as spot continues to grow in its new online format. Her perspective as a printmaker gives her a unique position from which to share with us other artists working in a constructed manner, and how, in our post-internet world, mediums begin to overlap and transform into exciting new reflections on how photography operates in the world. I am energized by her insightful compilation of this issue. I hope you enjoy it, and keep checking back for additional content added throughout the season along with exciting, members-only content.
—Ashlyn Davis, Executive Director & Curator
Having a passion for all things printmaking, it seems that by default, I am drawn to photographs and prints that are of the constructed nature. Prints, after all, are constructed images by process alone. My interest in this issue lies within the longstanding history between printmaking and photography—a history that continues to be challenged and expanded upon today. But beyond the technical crossovers of the various photo-mechanical and chemical processes, there is a unified modus operandi: construction. Both photography and printmaking produce visual representations of thought, whether through the layering of screen-printing films or the actual taking a photograph. Often times, what you see or visualize as the end result in making a print is not what you get. The same can be applied to photography; what you see—the reality of the thing—is not what you get—a reproduction of the thing.
With this thinking in mind, I am excited to introduce a series of interviews, essays, and prose that embody the spirit of the constructed image. The artists featured in this issue not only embrace complex artistic processes, but also construct identities and personas, construct physical spaces and sets, and above all, construct time. There is an apparent print quality to Daniel Gordon’s tableaus, sculpted and collaged with printed imagery found on the internet. These works feel familiar on multiple levels. First, because we recognize the long-standing history of the still life in painting and in photography. Second, because with the bombardment of images we see every day on the internet, we—quite literally—could have seen these exact images before—a trompe l’oeil realized.
Collage is a common theme throughout this issue. Ruth van Beek’s collection of images is sourced from old photobooks, magazines and manuals. From these sources, an archive of new possibilities is created, a library of images to sort, cut, and rearrange. Through assemblage, van Beek—much like the other artists presented in this issue—removes the original context of the appropriated image, re-contextualizing its meaning and encouraging a re-read. In some cases, like in Gordon’s work, appropriation embraces the image’s original function or intention, only to build it up further. For these artists, collage, much like photography, has the tendency to simultaneously take us away from and bring us closer to truth, to both conceal and reveal at the same time.
Many of the featured artists use construction as a way to speak to identity and to time. Hadi Fallahpisheh describes his artistic process as one that is similar to that of a journalist without a camera, creating darkroom chromogenic photograms to relay his own experiences from time spent in rural, conservative upstate New York. To situate us within a certain moment in time, Fallahpisheh physically backs each photograph with newspaper clippings from the day the exposure was made—literally time-stamping each image. This is a process similar to that of artist Karen Navarro, who embosses each image with the day’s trending social media hashtags.
As Fallahpisheh takes on various personas to dissect time and the complexity of race, Leonard Suryajaya constructs elaborate sets, adorned with culturally specific objects meant to investigate his own biographic narrative and to encourage discussion around issues of immigration, sexuality, and equal rights, further positioning ourselves within the current moment. Collectively, the artists in this issue each offer unique practices—from alternative process experimentations to carefully crafted scenes and tableaus—that not only challenge the medium of photography, but also use it as a tool for social discourse and markers of memory.
—Erin Miller, Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator