Among the high points of the AIPAD show in March were two large installations of photographs by Matthew Brandt. Between his work shown at Yossi Milo Gallery and at M+B, Brandt commanded more wall space than any other artist at the fair.
Tonight a show of new work opens at Yossi Milo, with large-scale unique prints from his ongoing studies of the natural world. Having grown up in front of the lens of his father, an LA-based commercial photographer, he learned at a young age both the technical aspects of the medium and the psychological dynamics possible in photographic representation. In an interview with the UK magazine Stamp, he relates the story of serving as the subject for one of his father’s film tests:
As a young child I have consistently been the person/subject of my father’s film tests. I have been collecting these ‘tests’ as they pop up here and there. One particular film test was for Fuji Provia 400 chrome 120 film. Throughout the frames of under/over exposures to minute degrees are pictures of me as an 8 year old, crying on the studio rooftop in vivid and spectacular [colors]… these film stills, like Proust’s Madeline, conjured a plethora of photographic relations for me when I came upon them. I realized that this was a way for my dad to spend time with his son, and photography was a way of bonding. But I also learned the distancing characteristics of photography, ‘why was he letting me cry and feel so uncomfortable,… why was he doing this to me?’ I learned about the sacrifices of getting an interesting picture, and I have to admit that my crying pictures are far superior images than any smiling poses at the beginning of the roll… These types of experiences not only had me submerged in the technical capabilities of photography, but also the psychological dynamics of the medium at a very young age.
Having learned the craft of photography from his father, Brandt went on to study painting before returning to camerawork as his main concern. He has recently become more involved with alternative processes based on the most basic properties of standard darkroom practices, combining darkroom, alternative, and digital manipulations. About his approach to image-making as representation, he says:
I have always been interested in depiction/representation… even my very early paintings were essentially about recreating a photographic moment. It seemed that I was repressing this urge to use photography early on because it was so close to me already with my father. It was very natural when I started using photography after moving away from home. A lot of my current work has stronger characteristics of both painting and photography. But historically, they both have not been so far apart for me. I am continually more and more interested in the mechanical reproduction that is inherent to photography in relation to the hand made.
In his series, Lakes and Reservoirs, seen at AIPAD and the Armory Show, the impact of these images—depictions of Western landscapes, colorful images distressed through various means both manual and digital—was primarily of a landscape under siege. About the conceptual nature of his practice, which sometimes seems at odds with his choice of subject and setting, he wrote,
I am interested in the physical index of things. Film for me is a more direct link to a subject in that light touches the thing, which touches the film, which after a few touches reaches a viewer’s eyeballs, like a chain of high fives. 0’s and 1’s is a translation process that has replaced this more direct form of image contact relations. I fully embrace the capabilities of digital workflow in my practice, but conceptually, there are inherent gaps within digital photography. But I suspect everyone will get over it in a few more years. I am personally trying to get as close to a subject as I can through process, to the point of going inside and inverting it.
The opening reception for Matthew Brandt | Lakes, Trees and Honeybees at Yossi Milo Gallery is tonight from 6-8 pm. 245 Tenth Avenue, NY, NY. Above: Lake Casitas, CA 5, © Matthew Brandt, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery.
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