February 11, 2014

2014: Nick Albertson @ Aspect/Ratio

Above: "Black Straws," 2013, a large format photographic print in "Single Use" by Nick Albertson at Aspect/Ratio.
Nick Albertson
"Single Use"
January 31 - March 7, 2014
119 N. Peoria Street
Chicago IL



Whether in casual conversation or in published text, critics exploring photography often settle upon genre and technique--though such well-worn inroads rarely offer any new perspective on the works in question.  And for want of an ability or desire to move beyond the immediate subject, or the mechanics of that subject's rendition, the meaning which might be suggested by some more subtle attribute or modality is usually ignored.  For example, Nick Albertson's formal concerns, insofar as they are evident within his prints which are currently on display in Aspect/Ratio, suggest that he enjoys some intellectual kinship with abstract painters.  That is to say, what appears most distinctive within "Single Use" is Albertson's effort to cultivate pattern by repetitively staging modular, geometric units before the whole of his camera's frame. [1]

Above: "Cones (diptych)," 2013, at left; "Black Straws," 2013, at right; Aspect/Ratio installation view.
Like Frank Stella who used architectural paints and brushes on canvas to create the "Black Paintings" and "Aluminum Paintings" of the late 50s and early 60s, Albertson employs mass-produced, commonplace materials which are spread evenly across a two-dimensional support.  And, whether the stuff which he's chosen to photograph is presented in an obviously regular arrangement or an apparently stochastic distribution, Albertson's balanced compositions strike the viewer as having been premeditated.  Like Stella in the period mentioned aforehand, Albertson is not spontaneous in his execution.

Having written all of that, no such remarks about post-painterly abstraction ought to be taken as an effort to divorce Albertson from the field of photography, generally, nor the tradition of its practice, locally.  Maybe most like Barabara Kasten (who herself seems easy to connect to Constructivism) Albertson has pursued a sort of studio work in which inanimate objects are structured and lit for capture with a large format film camera.  And, like Laura Letinsky, Albertson has demonstrated an interest in the use of props which are related to the production and consumption of food, e.g., plates.  Too, Albertson's compositions sometimes incorporate office supplies--which might remind one of Jessica Labatte's use of such things as tape rolls and Post-it notes.

Above: "Black Straws," 2013, at left; "Black/White Plates," 2013, at right; Aspect/Ratio installation view.
Absolutely opposed to the historical example of Letinsky, Albertson's culinary accoutrements are never used for their intended purpose; detritus, like color, is conspicuous in its absence here.  In fact, while most of what Albertson shoots is related to some biological process, there is no evidence of life to be found anywhere in the work.  Paint, when considered in light of such observations, might have been a bit too messy for Albertson to handle--which is not a pejorative remark but rather a guess about the appeal of the psychological distance which is enforced by the instrumentality of photography.  Some sort of middle ground between Albertson's current position and direct painting might be available in the photogram, though whether he should wish to avail himself of it is another matter altogether.

Above: "Cones (diptych)," 2013, through video gallery doorway; Aspect/Ratio installation view.
In the end, it might be useful to reconsider the proposition that Albertson has subverted some domestic object's purpose.  The "single use" goods found within Albertson's show were all likely manufactured by parties very much more interested in gross sales than in teleological refinements.  It's Albertson's consumption--or, more precisely, the profit derived from the sale which he represents--which is the end towards which the firms themselves are singularly directed.  Reproducing (if only graphically) such things as black plastic straws and Styrofoam plates, and then offering those reproductions in the marketplace, Albertson's practice can too be read as an extension of the process upon which he comments.


[1] Compare Nick Albertson's "Black Straws," 2013, to Scott Reeder's "Untitled (Pasta Painting)," 2013:

(a) http://www.sfaqonline.com/2013/10/sfaq-pick-scott-reeders-solo-exhibition-people-call-me-scott-at-lisa-cooley-gallery-new-york/

(b) http://lacontemporary.org/scottreeder/

Images (1-4) February 1, 2014;
Copyright Paul E. Germanos, where not a slavish reproduction of the original artist's work.

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