Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amy Archer at Augen

Amy Archer is a photographer who shoots mostly place/landscape and then montages the photos in multiples. The result is an appetizing pattern which can look like crisp abstract painting. The first show I saw of hers (at Augen) was all pasted by hand. Then she eventually montaged digitally, producing big seamless prints which also looked good. But I had heard that at her new show at Augen, she had chosen to take the original method and crafted the seams herself. For me, as a collage artist, it’s particularly notable to see how much more satisfying these new works are. It’s like you don’t know what you’ve lost till you get it back.

It has to do with the subtle and irregular human edges. They give you something to wrap your eye around. The fact that the works are not quite as unified gives them a more complex feel - more tactile and chewy than the digital cut and paste. As a viewer you’re not as lazy, you’ve got to stop a bit.

I heard that the images on the Augen site were nonetheless montaged digitally (as opposed to the artist scanning the entire collage). I think you can see and feel the difference - so what you’re seeing here is not what you can see on the walls of the gallery (most of the show is not online anyway). The subtle shifts and the variation in dimension make a big difference, especially when we're talking pattern.

None of this might matter to me if I wasn't an artist hemming and hawing about the subtle and not-so subtle-shifts produced in my own work when I decided to scan, enlarge and print a montage. Those moves were supposed to make it bigger, easier, smoother and thus, unilaterally better. Well, the bigness was cool but I couldn’t help feeling that something was lost in the process. No doubt there are any reasons why Archer’s new work looks the best yet, but I think the process was one of them.

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