Blueprint VI, archival print from cyanotype, 27 x 36 in., 2011
Black & Blue
April 16 to May 8, 2011
Opening Reception Saturday April 16, 6-9PM
MICROSCOPE Gallery is pleased to present Bushwick-based artist Allison Somers in her first one-person show. Somers’ photographic and video works in Black & Blue invoke the power and destructive potential of nature and time, and explore the alchemy behind the artist’s materials and processes. Beneath the cool surface tones of hand-developed gelatin silver and cyanotype prints, Somers has subtly melded personal experience with her art. Solo travels to active volcanoes in East Java and unlit museums in remote villages of the Middle East, Asia, & Central America – where delicate, decaying relics are displayed – and her fascination with the sport of boxing have inspired works contemplating the beautiful brutality of life.
On view April 16 to May 8.
Allison Somers was born in Los Angeles and is now based in Brooklyn. She works primarily with photography and moving image and has previously exhibited at: Participant Inc., Emily Harvey Foundation, Front Room Gallery, 80WSE Gallery, Scaramouche Gallery among others. Somers received an MFA from New York University in 2010.
Allison Somers: BLACK AND BLUE
In Jorge Luis Borges’ “Funes, the Memorious” (1942), the protagonist laments: “I have more memories in myself alone than all men have had since the world was the world. … My memory, sir, is like a garbage disposal.”
Working with both still and moving images, Allison Somers makes work inspired by the history of photographic experimentation, utilizing a combination of traditional and alternative processes. The resulting artworks are presented as unique objects possessing something more akin to sculpture than to the history of endless mechanical reproduction. While Somers is perpetually seeking out new destinations and subjects, just as often she finds herself returning to locations to repeatedly photograph the same things. On these new or repeat excursions, she makes photographic negatives that will later serve as source material for her projects. After passing a negative through a variety of chemical and sometimes digital processes, the image becomes only a shadow (a simulation) of its original self. It is obscured, blurred, shifted, and mutated into something entirely new. Yet imbedded within, the residue of the original signifier lies dormant and just vaguely perceptible.
In Black and Blue Somers presents works linked by her method of reconceptualization through degenerative process. While the blueprints presented in the show depict objects photographed in museums in various countries around the world, at their core they are not about destination travel. Rather, they are evidence of a journey in search of experience and imagery that resonates for the artist, and translates to meaning. For example, one image shot in a museum in Java, Indonesia, features sun-faded portraits of public figures unknown to the artist at the time she made the picture. Title cards were not translated and thus Somers had no access to the textual information being shared. At the time, these faded images reminded the artist of what she is seeking while making her work – the moment when the information presented, through obfuscation, takes on meaning beyond the specificity of place and time.
Somers’ memories of a particular subject/experience possess only a vague and buried relationship to the finished artworks. The image becomes a new document – free from the burden of personal recollection.
Ideas of dormancy and latent power are evoked by Somers’ Ijen series. The artist encountered fissured earth and violently billowing smoke on a trek through volcanic terrain. The silver gelatin prints were processed with a solarizing bath further shifting and exhausting the tonal values. The prints are secured within welded angle iron frames by powerful magnets referencing and reinforcing the heavy metallic material the images depict.
In her video Black and Blue, Somers appropriates archival footage of the historic boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, which resulted in the transfer of Heavyweight title, and metaphorically signified a growing rivalry between the two countries represented in the ring. The fight was recorded and that footage has been reproduced many times over, suffering the expected degradation in material quality, but also a degradation, or rather mutation, of the information it depicts. Somers has looped the few seconds leading up to and delivering the final knock out punch. The footage is presented in her piece in the negative, hinting at issues of tone, both literally and metaphorically. But perhaps most compelling is the large bright camera flash (reversed from white to black) that goes off in the front row just as the succumbing fighter hits the mat. Reminding us that this image, and this memory, exists elsewhere ad infinitum in so many different iterations.
Allison Somers: Black & Blue, opening 4.16
All images are courtesy and copyright of the artist © 2011