Hannah Whitaker’s Cold Wave work is showing at M+B Gallery in her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles.
This show expands on Whitaker’s interest in the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel who introduced the notion of unknowability to mathematics, a field often characterized by certainty. His ideas problematized early 20th century philosophical claims to truth and knowledge, a dialectic inherent to the medium of photography. Whitaker’s interest in Gödel led her to think of the film plane as a formal system—a set of limited variables and operations. The results establish repetitious motifs that occur both within a single image and across multiple photographs.
Employing a 4×5 view camera, she photographs using the intervention of hand-cut paper screens, often layering as many as fifteen in a single image; at times shooting through the screens and at others using them to deform an image selectively after it is shot. These in-camera processes allow her to collapse various moments in time and space onto a single sheet of film. The resulting photographs are suspended between multiple dualities: the handmade and the technical, the geometric and the photographic, the flat and dimensional, or—in the lexicon of Rosalind Krauss—the antireal and the real.
The notion of a formal system is reinforced by her use of the constitute parts of her process as subjects in their own photographs. In Cutouts (Green), Cutouts (Pink) andCutouts (Orange), Whitaker photographed the paper detritus left behind after cutting her paper screens. She arranged these cutouts on colored paper backgrounds that reappear in different forms in other photographs, establishing material linkages across multiple works. While the photographs contain abstract elements, Whitaker’s subjects can be thought of as resolutely depictive in their familiarity—wintery landscapes, women and still lifes of banal objects. These conventional subjects are thoroughly recognizable, despite gaps in their representation. In Torso, for example, a body remains a body despite its distortions.
Many of the screens draw from 20th century abstract artists, such as Sophie Taeuber-Arp, David Bomberg and Anni Albers, in addition to applied artists such as quiltmakers Annie and Mary Lee Bendolph. Whitaker’s patterns employ illusory logic that is undermined by the messiness of photographic depiction, the imperfections in the paper itself and—at times—the pattern’s refusal to adhere completely to its own rules.
Hannah Whitaker (b. 1980) received her BA from Yale University (2002) and MFA from ICP/Bard (2006). Recent exhibitions include solo shows at Galerie Christophe Gaillard (Paris), Thierry Goldberg (New York), Locust Projects (Miami) and Rencontres d’Arles in France, where she was nominated for the Discovery Prize, along with group shows at Cherry and Martin (Los Angeles) and Higher Pictures (New York). She recently co-edited Issue 45 of Blind Spot magazine and co-curated its accompanying show at Invisible Exports in New York. She is a contributing editor for Triple Canopy, an editorial group included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Whitaker lives and works in Brooklyn.
This show runs through April 26, 2014
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By Jim McKinniss