(From the series of posts on printing on jm.org)
One of the “a-ha” moments I had during our trip to LA this past summer was how we should be presenting our work. Our piece Ophelia was in the APA LA show and used it as a great excuse to head south and check out a number of galleries and get a beat on the scene’s vibe.
We had be matting and framing the prints behind plexi or glass and they had an almost reserved feeling … it was creating a barrier between the work and the audience. The presentation should compliment the work, take it to a new level, instead of just being an attempt at showing it.
In doing my research on framing and photography, it seems up until about 30-40 years ago, photographic prints were simply pinned to the wall, enjoyed temporarily, and never framed. Then a shift came in mounting, framing, and putting behind glass. As a relatively younger medium, there is less of a consensus on the proper displaying and archival methods when it comes to photography. Archival generally means that you can separate the work from the presentation in the future for restoring and reframing. The materials should not negatively interact with the work and cause any damage from adhesives or acid migration. But the work should be displayed as the artist intended. That last section is the loophole that I intend to exploit, and live in that gray area that we seem to find ourselves so often.
Photographs being a printing process that these days is (for the most part) perfectly reproducible, and there are a number of options for displaying them. To get the most our of our images, I settled on an inkjet on paper process as it retained the most detail, shading, and color. A common choice for photographers, but now how to display it. But in our experience so far, putting those images in a frame and behind glass destroyed the presentation, making the images washed out or even unviewable. With our show at Varnish coming up, we needed a good solution.
Our work is borne of the photographic medium, but it quickly departs from traditional works with the use of sets, photo illustration and surreal concepts. Coupled with the lighting style we apply, it pushes the boundaries even more, resulting in a conundrum. As I was making correlations to some of the galleries we were visiting, the decision became quickly apparent.
Aside from being in a photo show, we visited the traditional photography galleries Stephen Cohen who had contemporary photographer Joey L and Fahey/Klein who has a number of historic works — all framed and behind plexi/glass. We also stopped by Copro for Annie Owens’ Motherland opening and Corey Helford who had a group show that included works by Ray Cesar and other digital artists, and a quick stop in La Luz de Jesus. This was a great combination for comparing different styles of work and their presentations.
We decided to embrace our subject and style, more so than our medium, and present as our contemporaries — put the works in an ornate frame, without glass. Often the first comment we hear is how painterly our work is — if they even discern that it’s not a painting and rather a print. Go with that, and push that correlation even more, until it hurts, challenge assumptions, start a dialog. Great … it was decided! Now, how to accomplish that … that’s a bit of uncharted territory. Next up: Seal it up.