The New Beauty of Our Modern Life @ Higher Pictures

by Loring Knoblauch

The New Beauty of Our Modern Life

Collector Daily


JTF (just the facts): A group show containing the work of 8 photographers/artists, variously framed, matted, and displayed, and hung against white walls in the entry area and the single room gallery space. The show was curated by Kate Steciw. (Installation shots below.)

The following photographers/artists have been included in the show, with details of the number of works on view, dates, physical dimensions, and edition sizes as background:

Sara Cwynar: 2 c-prints, 2013, each 30×24, in editions of 3
Alex Da Corte: 1 floor installation consisting of mirror, VCT tile, lettuce, sand, and adhesive, 2014, dimensions variable, edition of 3
Rachel de Joode: 1 set of 6 photo rag prints mounted on Hydrocal Plaster with matte-crystal archival finish, with plexiglas holders on pedestals, 2013, together 60x47x45, unique
Ethan Greenbaum: 1 direct to substrate print on vacuum formed plastic, 2013, 33×36, unique
Asha Schechter: 1 c-print, 2013, 40×30, edition of 3; 3 adhesive vinyl stickers, 2014, roughly 2×4 (or reverse), each unique
Kate Steciw: 1 c-print with mixed media and custom frame, 2014, 64x40x2, uneditioned
Yannick Val Gesto: 3 prints on transparent glass, 2013, each 24×16, in editions of 3
Harm van den Dorpel: 1 digital UV print on hand cut synthetic glass and spray paint, 2012, 37x37x39, unique

Comments/Context: Out on the experimental front edge of contemporary photography, the search for a new visual vocabulary is taking place with urgency. When seen in shows like this one, the process of invention and reinvention feels a bit like genetic mutation, where ideas are introduced, quickly recycled and repurposed by others, and eventually brought into a kind of equilibrium across a broader population. There is a familiarity to the newness on display here, as if it’s been caught between the first and second generations, still a work in progress and building on themes that have already been outlined at least provisionally.

Each work in this show adds a snippet of innovation to the ongoing discussion. Kate Steciw’s newest work takes her investigation of stock photography and surface interruption to a deeper level of complexity, and then turns it on its side so that it juts straight out into the three dimensional space of the gallery. Asha Schechter plays with digital manipulation, taking Lucas Blalock style recombination and layering it with additional density; adhesive vinyl images of a taco, a teddy bear, and a bow tie break the tyranny of the rectangular frame and fly off into the corners of the room. Sara Cwynar’s images continue the testing of rephotography, her peg board collaged book covers often bent at the corners to throw off the spatial flatness. And Yannick Val Gesto’s works on transparent plexiglas aggregate fragments of code, fonts, digital drawing, and short phrases into a kind of all-over digital age rebus.

The other four artists in the show push photography even further into the realm of sculpture. Harm van den Dorpel bends images on transparent plastic into a woven orb that hangs in space like a grafted uneasy mix of natural and mechanical. Ethan Greenbaum vacuum molds his plastic images to give them intricate surface topology and texture. Rachel de Joode isolates the tracks of single tears, affixing them to plaster backing, and turning them into a set of elongated organic objects. And Alex Da Corte’s floor mixes an Escher-like optical patterning with mirrors (selfie friendly) and stray lettuce leaves, bringing an Arte Povera rejection of machined perfection back into the digital photography dialogue.

Even with all these ideas in play, there is a consistent sense of ongoing gestation here, of concepts (both borrowed and fresh) that continue to be honed and perfected. Many need a further iteration or two to break away from the chaotic, disruptive hive and find a voice that truly separates. But taken as a whole, the show delivers a clear sense of some of the main ideas in the mix these days; now we need them to coalesce and clarify into more distinctive and sophisticated paths.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows:

Sara Cwynar: $2000 each
Alex Da Corte: $15000 (plus installation)
Rachel de Joode: $5900
Ethan Greenbaum: $3250
Asha Schechter: $2500 for c-print
Kate Steciw: $5000
Yannick Val Gesto: $2400 each
Harm van den Dorpel: $7895

The contemporary photographers/artists in this show have little or no secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.

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