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There is something about artistic clutter that I love. The crumpled remains of discarded experiments, the crusts of paint dripped on floors and furniture, the outlines of finished pieces long since removed, frames of overlapped color left like burned shadows after a nuclear bomb. These remnants have a calm, yet chaotic, beauty, similar to debris after a storm, that draws me to visit studios and empty art classrooms. When looking at David Gilbert‘s art, now on view in his solo show Angels at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery on the Lower East Side, I see this ephemeral aesthetic appreciated in his quiet photographs.
For a show focused on the ephemeral, Angels is appropriately fleeting. Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery is a small space and Gilbert’s large photographs mean that each wall can only accommodate a single work comfortably. You can stand in the middle of the gallery and see the entire show at once. I’m usually put off by art being pinned to the wall instead of framed and hung, but since Gilbert’s subjects are so transient, the anti-archival installation suits the presentation.
The subjects, although they appear like accidental compositions of studio residue, are carefully staged by Gilbert and then carefully lit for the photographs. Rather than captures of the scraps left behind by creating work, the messy scenes are the works themselves.
Ingres and Vermeer are two Old Masters cited for comparison to Gilbert’s work in the press release and, while that’s a bit lofty, this contemporary artist’s photographs do have the same type of radiant interior light. This comes out in a third dimension through the show’s installation in the gallery, where a little night light glows under Gilbert’s “Cave Skeleton” (2011). (I like that this title made me look at the string of creased paper as if it’s a vertebrae.) The light is place in the same location that was used to illuminate the corner of the staging when it was photographed. There’s also another break out of the two-dimensions with “Hung Paper” in one gallery corner, which, as you might guess from its title, is a piece of paper hanging from the ceiling, stained and crumpled, looking like it might have swung out of one of the photographs on the walls. While it didn’t feel integral to the show since it seemed to diverge from the whole idea of the assemblages existing only in photographs, I did like that Gilbert was staging a small moment of artistic disarray.
While the twists of fabric and paper in the photographs are depicted as figurative, there’s only one human figure in the works: Gilbert himself painting naked in a dark studio. I like to think that Gilbert is presenting himself as being just as ephemeral as the other art objects, something that will someday only exist in photographs. Maybe this is a little morbid of me, although the title of another work, “Blue Angel,” and the exhibit itself contain hints at an ethereal afterlife, even if that could just as easily be referring to the elusive and fleeting light trapped in the images.
Gilbert has an active tumblelog, through which it’s possible to take a tour of the progression of his art. It made me appreciate how controlled the chaos was, the attentive design in the disorder, and how he has perfected this over time into something that seems so casual.
While you could walk into Angels and dismiss the photographs, there is a real consciousness there of how light hitting a wall in just the right way can make even a dirty rag momentarily beautiful. Sometimes the things that are the most temporary, the most disposable, can root themselves in our minds. There is something haunting about the quickness of time in their impermanence.
David Gilbert: Angels continues at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery (54 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through January 22.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.