In Uncommon Denominator, Nina Katchadourian aims to create a conversation among works from throughout her career, artifacts of her family’s history, and objects drawn from the Morgan’s vaults. To enlist the taste, imagination, and expertise of others, Katchadourian asked Morgan staff members to explain their favorite objects to her. She incorporated many of these into a sequence of clusters in which images and objects may echo, contradict, or comment upon one another. The arrangement encircles a newly commissioned set of photographs from Katchadourian’s ongoing Sorted Books project: stacks of books — selected from the Morgan’s Carter Burden Collection of American Literature — whose titles combine into statements, poems, one-liners, or brief narratives.

Katchadourian treated the Morgan as a living resource and applied an expansive definition of its “collections.” For example, while passing through a hallway in the conservation department, she came across a case of retired leatherworking tools that struck her as “an encoded alphabet” or “pre-historic emoticons.” Relocated to the exhibition, they are situated adjacent to Jessica Wynne’s near-life-size photograph of a Columbia University mathematician’s chalkboard. The scholar’s linear diagrams are in turn echoed by motifs in an embroidery sampler made by Lucy Katchadourian, the artist’s “third, bonus grandmother,” during her early years in an orphanage for Armenian genocide survivors.

Uncommon Denominator is on view through May 28, at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. It is accompanied by a catalogue featuring an independent image sequence and an interview with the artist.

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