Frank Egloff: think about something else
To read Cate McQuaid's review in the Boston Globe please click HERE
Frank Egloff: think about something else May 11 - June 12
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Martha Buskirk is the author of The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art and is currently completing a new book, Seeing through the Museum: Art, Life, Commerce, that addresses reciprocal relationships between museum history and contemporary artistic practices.
The exchange seems almost too perfect to have actually taken place. Asked by Hans Hoffman about his study of nature, Jackson Pollock famously replied “I am nature.” The claim evokes a clean slate of invention, unsullied by the paradigm of imitation founded upon an equally miraculous story about Zeuxis and some illusionistic grapes. Photographs of Pollock’s 1950 exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery show his painterly invention at its greatest density, with the intimate gallery space essentially filled by a combination of large and small canvases covered edge to edge by webs of dripped paint. Only a year later, Robert Rauschenberg went to a different extreme with the white paintings he exhibited at Black Mountain College. “A canvas is never empty,” Rauschenberg asserted, and indeed their uniform expanse functioned as a screen for shadows and reflected light generated by surrounding activities. The fullness of invention was answered by the white monochrome, two poles that shared, however, a sense of terminus, as Pollock completed the modernist march toward abstraction and Rauschenberg wiped the surface entirely clean of the painted mark.
It seems highly unlikely that Frank Egloff was paying much attention to this brinkmanship at the time it was unfolding, since he was barely a toddler. But he has inherited the questions left in its wake about what to paint, and indeed whether to do so at all. His own coming of age as an artist placed him squarely in the postmodern, as seemingly outmoded originality claims were supplanted by the conscious deployment of strategies of quotation and reference, drawing upon cultural contexts shared by artist and audience alike.
In these circumstances, the hand-painted photograph offers a paradoxical return to the readymade. No new image has been brought into the world. Instead, something already posited is put back into play through a process of interpretation that both depends upon and arrests the reproducibility of the photograph. Egloff’s oscillation between close adherence and willful distortion, evident in the fragmentation and rearrangement of his chosen images, along with the intersection of monochrome rendering and applied color, emphasizes the layers of mediation that are part of his engagement with the ever expanding photographic archive. At the same time, the thin applications of paint, together with bands of monochrome that encroach from the edges, suggest that the specter of the blank canvas has never been entirely suppressed.
Nothing says photograph like the tones of black and white so closely associated with the classics of this still young medium. Yet the familiarity of this photographic source material veils a degree of unknowability that, rather than dividing artist from audience, links the two in a process of interpreting the same images. There is a kind of dance, between Egloff’s authority over how he has chosen to interpret the visual information, and what is depicted in the images he selects. The artist commands no privileged wisdom with respect to the latter, since the audience has equal access to the same historical sources. And at certain points the legible gives way to shades of black and white, as the potential abstraction of the painterly gesture intersects with patterns of illegible information suspended in the midst of the photographic surface.
Clark Gallery is honored to announce Frank Egloff: think about something else, a solo exhibition of the Boston artist’s compelling paintings installed in the gallery from May 11 through June 12, 2010. All are invited to join the artist for a reception on Saturday, May 15th from 4-6pm.
Frank Egloff challenges the nature of the photographic medium through his meticulously rendered acrylic on canvas paintings. Egloff appropriates imagery from culturally significant photographs, repositioning, manipulating, and at times melding multiple photographs together before painstakingly transitioning the modified image from photograph to painting. Perspective, composition, and color tonality are shifted, adapting and stretching the photographic source. The original, borrowed image is reinvented and put back into play as a viable comment on photography’s cultural context and subsequent significance. Egloff interprets and re-contextualizes the photograph, challenging the presumed reality of photo-based imagery.
In an essay that she wrote in honor of this exhibition, author and curator Martha Buskirk studies the art historical significance of Egloff’s approach to painting. She states, “The familiarity of [his] source material veils a degree of unknowability that, rather than dividing artist from audience, links the two in a process of interpreting the same images.” For his part, Egloff acknowledges a careful study of his approach, source material, and painterly medium. According to Egloff, “the paintings are conceived primarily as meditations on the nature and meaning of contemporary images.” His thoughtful perspective is mirrored in his precise painting technique, which often confronts the viewer with questions of whether the piece is indeed a painting or printed photograph.
Frank Egloff earned his B.A. from Duke University and M.A. from Hunter College. He has been awarded the prestigious Painting Fellowship twice from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Egloff is represented in numerous private and museum collections, including the Fogg Art Museum and deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. His work has been featured in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the country, including the Fogg Art Museum, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Rose Art Museum, and Institute of Contemporary Art.