by Ara H. Merjian
Grounded in found photographs gleaned from various sources, Garrett Pruter’s recent body of work lends new visual life to images threatened with obsolescence. For June Gloom (all works 2011), Pruter has inflated a print to sprawling dimensions and then scraped away at the raw, wetted photographic emulsion with a dull blade, leaving a somewhat spectral scene scored with evenly paced yellow notches. In Washed Out, abstract patterns from a scrimlike layer have been cut out and placed over a blown-up image. See also Ship Wrecked, where pieces of the photographic print itself have been excised, resulting in a pocked and perforated surface. By contrast, Mixed Signals is additive, with cutout shapes from a found poster placed below an enlarged, anonymous portrait of two individuals. In each instance, the relationship of the pattern—either subtracted, abstracted, or superimposed—to the original imagery is quirky; all seem arbitrary and interrogative, evocative and suggestive rather than tendentious.
Three collage pieces—respectively titled Los Angeles, Blackout, and Flesh—feature repurposed magazine images, cut into squares and layered in abstract patterns. Flesh fittingly derives from vintage editions of Playboy and Penthouse. Abstracted into a field of pinkish (and seemingly pixilated) geometries, it bears only a metonymic relationship to more carnal origins. Similarly, Los Angeles, taken from aerial photographs of the eponymous city, plays on layers of removal from its original urban source, slicing up photographs into a series of formal facets.
The exhibition’s most striking piece is an installation incorporating various 35-mm slides—again culled from random sources—projected onto a curved mold, covered with tessellated mirror fragments. Cast onto the wall in intervals, the resultant images appear distorted and distended though still discernible in their basic dimensions, whether as landscape or portrait. Pruter seems to be hitting his stride in terms of a play between photographic removal and objective presence—a cocktail that he is bound to take in compelling directions.