It is now a custom to document daily experience through photographs. Using phones and social media, an importance can be created for a situation that would otherwise pass unnoticed. With the integration of this practice into everyday routine, the meaning and importance given to what is documented seems to be losing its potency; it becomes lost within a steady stream of similar photographs by like-minded authors.
Dailies, the second one-person exhibition by Thomas Demand at Matthew Marks Gallery, takes the idea of giving importance to the overlooked to extraordinary lengths. Demand sourced eighteen images from his cell phone, and then printed them using the laborious dye-transfer process. These images mark small interactions between objects and their environments, such as a bar of soap on the edge of a bathtub, a small piece of paper stuck in a grate, or comb on a ledge, beneath a mirror. The content of these photographs at first seems mundane and commonplace – set ups which could have been found anywhere. However, there is another aspect to Demand’s work which goes nearly unnoticed in the exhibition.
Demand’s previous work is similarly concerned with environment, although often environments in which questionable government activity took place (such as Saddam Hussein’s bunker, or the Oval Office). However he does not photograph the actual location, but rather creates a 1:1 scale reconstruction made mostly of paper. When photographed, these reconstructions become surreal, flattened by the material in which they are made and shown with a lack of inhabitants. This practice was continued within Dailies, with many of the objects and situations laboriously fabricated before being photographed with the artist’s cell phone.
The result is a series of familiar scenes playfully and meticulously rendered, and then beautifully printed. The depths of the colors are extraordinary because of the dye-transfer process; no digital replication does the work justice. The simplicity of the composition makes the images similar to modernist painting; the simplicity of the subject matter with the execution of the printing process likens the work to that of William Eggleston or Stephen Shore. The small and unnoticed becomes whimsical and otherworldly, without drawing attention to their own fabrication. Indeed it is still the situation that remains prominent, and through this documentation it is given importance.
November 2 – January 18th, 2014