David B. Smith Gallery is proud to present Christopher Russell’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, The Ghost of Mechanical Reproduction. In his newest exhibition, Russell continues to capture and manipulate ghostly representations of quotidian landscapes. With mountains and flowers as his subjects, Russell uses traditional methods of photography, but obscures the plane with gossamer layers of colored veils, providing viewers with an otherworldly vision awash in soft color. However, this romantic impression is disrupted by the intricate, but inherently violent, scrapes and scratches introduced to the surface of the photograph leaving lace-like patterns and halftones forming their own craggy shapes. The Ghost of Mechanical Reproduction provides a vision of the instinctual human, free to explore nature away from the confines of societal tradition through the casting aside of pristine photographic convention in favor of deliberate intervention in the photographic image.
Russell presents what might be deduced as the true aura of his subject, the colors we are meant to see. These photographs are augmented with rough, yet laborious, scratches to the surface of the print that are actually drawings
of mechanically reproduced nature: halftone dots and repeating patterns. Russell creates a new sense of Romanticism, bound by both substrate and subject to mechanical reproduction. These elements don't create an image of nature that is depreciated in reproduction, but rather something new, perhaps even better. Walter Benjamin predicted the perils of producing art in an increasingly digital age, believing reproduction leaves empty shells too distanced from their original subject to connect to the viewer. Russell challenges this notion by providing an aura of authentic experience. What we end up with are photographs that are more faithful to contemporary
experience, than to the scenes of nature encountered by the artist.
“If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its
shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch.”