Opening reception: June 3, 2017 6–8pm
Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by Bing Wright—the artist’s first show at the gallery.
Sunsets reflected in broken mirrors, scattered sheets of silver leaf, and black and white compositions of overlapping rectangular frames comprise some of Bing Wright’s most recent investigations into the nature and history of photographic processes.
Webs of fractured glass (in sharp focus) spider across the Broken Mirror/Evening Sky pictures, each about six feet tall. Disjointed reflections of fading skies, clouds, and silhouettes of tree branches are hazy and distant. To make these pictures, Wright photographed the sky at dusk, then later projected and rephotographed these images reflected in small, shattered mirrors. He shot the final pictures in his studio, more like constructed still lifes than found landscapes. Each of these pieces is titled with the name of a photographic film or developing process—Cibachrome, C-22, Kodacolor—now obsolete.
In the Silver on Mirror series, Wright photographed crumpled sheets of metal leaf dropped onto a mirrored ground. The images represent several layers of silver: the papery silver leaf, its reflection, and the mirror itself. Despite being shot and printed digitally, these black-and-white pictures also point to the light-sensitive silver halide crystals on the film of analog photography, and the silver salts suspended in gelatin on traditional photographic paper. Silver on Mirror was one of the first bodies of work Wright made after dismantling his darkroom and converting to digital. Accordingly, these works are named for famous 20th-century photographers—Stieglitz, Callahan, Arbus—whose careers were made before the digital revolution.
The Silver / Surface photographs are of several rectangular frames covered in silver leaf—on a gray background—at varying distances from the camera. One is in focus; the others are not. Additionally, Wright applied strips of silver leaf to the surface of the print, mimicking the straight lines and right angles in the photographic composition. He simultaneously differentiates and collapses foreground/background and depicted space (the image plane) / physical space (the surface of the print).
Wright describes his own work as “kind of blasé, kind of quotidian.” He admires Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot for being “so exactly what it is. His writing is abstract, but basically a representation of life in a very straightforward way.” Similarly, many of Wright’s pictures are of subjects so simple and familiar that looking at them closely seems strange and surprising: landscapes seen through double-hung windows, water droplets coursing down glass, dead flies on plain backdrops.
And yet the mundaneness of Waiting for Godot (and Beckett’s reticence to discuss any specific symbolism in the play) is perhaps what makes it open to interpretation through the lenses of so many disciplines. So too, Wright’s pictures about silver move beyond mere investigations of photography. Because he is careful to avoid imbuing his work with a specific point of view, place, or time, its ultimate significance shifts from viewer to viewer. Today, for someone in the USA, Wright’s pictures might be portraits of a changing world. Analog tasks are being replaced by digital ones; newspapers are failing and more and more people are learning about their worlds via social media. With so much information on the internet (tailored to an array of opposing worldviews), truth has become malleable, perhaps even selectable. The lines do not always connect, as in Wright’s mirrors reflecting fragmented sunsets. However—every sunset anyone can remember has always been followed by a sunrise. A new day.
Bing Wright, born in 1958 in Seattle, lives and works in New York. Wright has shown his work at the Boise Art Museum, Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery (Saratoga Springs), New Museum (New York), Queens Museum, Western Bridge (Seattle), and White Columns (New York). His work is included in the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Portland Art Museum, and Seattle Art Museum.