Though the first word that comes to mind when looking at Richard Forster’s remarkably meticulous, black-and-white drawings is “photorealistic,” the artist describes them as “nearly-photo-realistic” and “photocopy-realistic.” This may seem like a minor distinction, but semantics are key in the face of such conceptually driven works, in which the point is not only the undeniable wow-factor of his trompe l’oeil mimicry, but also their meditation on process, time, and place. The fruits of many months of his laboring to transform a diverse assortment of photographic source images into mesmerizing, mixed-media drawings are currently on view in “Richard Forster: Modern” at Ingleby Gallery.
The works in the exhibition range from small- to large-scale, and from stand-alone pieces to diptychs, triptychs, and sequences of interrelated individual images, which stretch across the wall like an unspooled filmstrip. Their subject matter, too, ranges, from the vast sweep of the coastline captured from above, to reproductions of pastoral nudes paired with printed patterns, to historical photographs of sites in Germany. These are based upon Forster’s own snapshots, as well as images photocopied from books and magazines and culled from the internet. Source is important here. The artist captures not only the image itself, but also the particularities of its medium, as in Three Verticals on consecutive but random time intervals, Saltburn-by-the Sea, 21 Jan 2009, 11.41-11.42am (2014), an encompassing triptych of three subtly varying views of the shoreline, based on photographs, as evidenced by the crisp flatness of the drawings. While sand and sea may seem like visually spare photographic subjects, Forster’s drawings foreground the incredible intricacy of the foamy waves, which required hours of toiling effort to reproduce with pencil on paper. For the diptych, Dresden on Flickr (2012), the artist paired two birds-eye-views of this historically significant German city, based upon jpegs pulled from Flickr. With their lush abundance of details, the works seem to teeter at the edge of abstraction. So do his intimate drawings of female nudes, who pick their way through wooded settings touched with glinting flashes of sunlight.
“Richard Forster: Modern” is on view at Ingleby Gallery May 3 – June 20, 2014.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory