Critics Pick, ArtForum

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.

Ara H. Merjian


Press Release

For its third exhibition, The Galerie Virginie Louvet is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in France of California-born, Brooklyn-based artist Garrett Pruter in Wish you were here curated by Cecelia Stucker.

Similar to Matisse's expansion of the Renaissance notion of painting as a window onto the world in his Open Window at Collioure from 1905, both the 19th century French painter and the modern day Pruter use a fresh language to relieve their compositions of depth, leaving the viewer immersed in a parallel, atmospheric experience. Pruter's work has always explored the repurposing of nostalgia and his first series of paintings expand his typical dissection of imagery into abstract voids.

The artist’s process is as much a part of the work as the final object. Similar to Pollock’s notion that the gesture, or act of dripping paint upon canvas is a part of the experience of the work itself, Pruter’s alchemical process is considered one stage in the life of the work. Like a performance, the artist will transport his studio temporarily within the walls of Galerie Virginie Louvet for the three weeks preceding the exhibition’s opening. As he mixes and creates his photographic-paint washes, the artist himself will be on display through the windows of The Galerie. His paint recipe links his process to experiments of a chemist’s, while his dissection of old imagery gives those same images new life.

Pruter’s new series explores entropic mutation not only in the physicality of the medium, but also the interpretation of the subject matter.

In a reverse photographic process, the subjects within the final paintings are growing backwards while Pruter explores tonality in this photosynthesis evolution. Unlike the Xerox effect, deterioration occurs with the source imagery as the photographic materials are separated into their elemental form and then transformed to create an entirely new medium--painting.

The dark hues of the source photographs resurface within the washes of paint as ink blots, lending tactility. This physicality of the transformed photograph enhances the paintings. The presence of the element aluminum is evidenced by an effect similar to copper oxidization. Aluminum gives the paintings a patina effect, like an antique mirror, but aluminum is also present when developing film; providing both the paintings and original photographs with different luminosities.

Another parallel between the surface of the final works and the source photos, they are both abstractions - not concerned with a specific narrative – but a space or context exists within the frame. In the paintings, there is a foreground where the pigment exists but it describes only atmosphere. The works create a cerebral space of contemplation, a space for the viewer to enter bringing with them their own nostalgia and inferences.

Pruter bridges the practice and ideologies between photography and painting through the conception and display of his new series. As he says, the interest is “not only the printing process [of photography], but also to the life and afterlife of photographs.” He manipulates the life of the found-photos through their elemental, aesthetic, and conceptual means. This new series is birthed out of the same interests in the monochromatic voids he explores with his earlier collaging and mosaic work.

Cecelia Stucker