An exhibition of new work by Elad Lassry has just closed at Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York. The show featured photographs, unique works, and a 35 mm film.
The works, made from original or recreated photographs, found
materials and collaged elements, employ mundane subjects and familiar
compositions that are at first reminiscent of stock or studio
photography. However, once the moment of imposed recognition has passed,
we realize that we don’t know the photographs’ original context, or if
they ever had one. This ambiguity, when paired with the seemingly benign
imagery, results in a tension – these straightforward pictures end up
feeling incredibly abstract. That initial familiarity is gone, and
what’s left is a static world of motherless images.
The photographic process reveals itself through an exaggerated perfectionism – the colors are too rich, the poses too staged, and the subjects too impassive. We are not looking at stripped down, uncomplicated photos, but rather a series of decisions made by Lassry – including recreation, appropriation, and manipulation – that collapse the division between realism and abstraction. Making use of the human instinct to reference and associate, transformative moments are created in which the viewer goes from a position of confidence and understanding to one of uncertainty and disorientation.
Lassry’s small scale photographs sit in colored frames, the color of each frame referring to a dominant hue in the picture it encloses. This not only highlights the objectness of the photographs, but also creates a literal boundary that insulates each subject and image. The individual works are fixed and autonomous but when grouped together produce a broad illusion of abstract cohesiveness. Lassry’s background as a filmmaker can be seen in the pronounced moods and tones that seem to account for this phenomenon.
The untitled 35 mm film in this exhibition acted as an extension of the photographs in the adjoining room. The camera alternates between an image of a woman and a California King snake gliding and writhing in her hands. The work functions as two separate, moving portraits, emphasizing Lassry’s awareness of film’s debt to photography. Lassry’s films simultaneously reference and abandon his photographs, resulting in a dialogue about the possibilities of representation.Lassry’s smart pictures set new standards for photography and its visceral potential while his films bolster this charge and take it in a different albeit parallel direction. Managing to strike a balance between visual power and conceptual ingenuity, the images exist in a realm where the strangeness of our world is revealed through our familiarity with it.