Courtesy Danziger Gallery
Farrah Karapetian knows that photographs never tell the whole truth. She has been working with photography—in one of its earliest forms, the camera-less print known as a photogram—since 2002, exploring its potential for abstraction. These qualities are fully expressed in her new series of lush, large-scale photograms titled “Stagecraft,” on view at Danziger Gallery this fall.
This is the first New York solo show for the L.A.-based Karapetian, and the gallery is giving over all of its space to her richly colored visions. To make these works, the artist assembled live models and musical instruments in her studio, and tapped into her sculptor side to build a makeshift drum kit. She arranged these elements in various configurations in front of light sensitive paper, which she then exposed to a flash of light. Semi-abstracted, stripped of details, and washed in stage-light hues, the resulting silhouettes evoke the pulsing rhythms of music itself.
The drum’s cymbals appear in many of the photograms on view, as if to periodically punctuate the entire display, as they do in music, with a metallic beat. In Soundscape 38 (2015), five of them spread out in an overlapping array across the picture plane. Like aquatic creatures, they are suspended on thin stands against a hazy, deep violet background, not yet agitated by the drummer’s stick. The cymbals in Soundscape 9 (2015), by contrast, appear to be in motion, with their closely cropped forms layered tightly together in an agitated knot.
There are musicians here, too. They appear in the photograms as ghostly or shadowy figures, posed in moments of rest. In a particularly quiet work, Soundscape 34 (2015), a female figure wearing platform heels crouches beside a microphone stand. Her doubled body, in tones of red, white, and blue, takes up most of the composition. And we as viewers are brought into this moment of pause, to take a breath before the music begins again.