Inman Gallery is pleased to present distant past/distant future, an exhibition of photographs by Edgar Leciejewski in the Main Gallery. This will be Leciejewski’s first solo exhibition with Inman, and his first solo show in the United States. It opens Friday, February 26th with a reception from 6 to 8, and continues through April 2nd.
In 2014 Edgar Leciejewski was an artist-in-residence at the Fogo Island Arts Residency, off the coast of Newfoundland. The island, about a hundred square miles with a population of just over 2,000, was a change of pace for the Leipzig-based artist, and he devoted the solitary half-year to photographing his spare surroundings. All the ingredients for sweeping Romantic vistas were there: isolation, open skies and rugged countryside. But Leciejewski’s mode of description – a plainspoken mix of close observation and introspection – has little room for spectacle. His photographs of sunsets are (except for the occasional contrail) uniformly cloudless gradients from brilliant orange to deep blue, with no land visible. His photographs of rocks are so closely cropped as to almost rob them of context. The images manage to be very specific accounts of just about anywhere.
Leciejewski distances his photographs from their point of origin still further with simple but pointed modifications. For Horizon Two Lines he turns his sunsets sideways and arranges them horizon-to-horizon, constructing a luminous grid that seems to crest and fall in vertical bands. The actual sky is impossible to compete with, but in their new orientation the reproductions are freshly imposing: altogether somewhat larger than human scale and pulsing with light that no longer feels quite natural. Leciejewski’s specially designed frames – painted white closest to the horizon and a mid-range blue on the other three sides – amplify the rhythm of the photographs, pushing the deepest blues back as the orange shines forward. For his Rough Form series, Leciejewski prints his pictures of rocks twice: first glossy and in color, and then matte, slightly smaller, and black-and-white. He turns the color photograph upside down and centers the black-and-white version on top. Corralled into a thin perimeter band and relieved of their descriptive duties, the inverted landscape’s colors flash brighter. Shadows gleam dark blue. A ruddy spray of lichen jumps off the surface. A pool of sky settles in a low corner. Our attention drifts from the austere rocks at center stage out to the margins, where a more vivid, more lifelike but also more abstract version of reality is on display.
Leciejewski’s consideration of borders – of what we’re allowed to see and what we aren’t, of the literal and figurative framing of his work – splits focus between his subjects and the way he interprets them. As lucid as his lens seems to be, he never lets us forget it’s there, lightly inflecting our understanding of the landscape. In fact it’s not “the landscape” at all; it’s his landscape, an interior terrain mapped onto a thin tract of the world outside. Leciejewski’s work often has an almost clinical air. Subjects are tightly focused, carefully composed, shot straight-ahead. But the object of study is as much how he perceives as what he perceives; a good deal of his photographs’ clarity goes towards examining their own limitations and misrepresentations.
The final image in the exhibition, A Scene In A Library, is from a series of life-sized pictures of Leciejewski’s bookshelves. It has the straightforward, declarative tone present in most of his work, but even a quick scan reveals that it’s at least partially fabricated. Objects are either a bit too crisp or blatantly smudged. Some flatten out, as if pasted into the scene. The background is stage-set black. All bookshelves are jumbled dioramas that funnel huge and incongruous portions of the world into one person’s private space. Ancient history bumps up against disposable paperbacks. Textbooks lean on mementos. Leciejewski’s heightened version, unabashedly synthetic, is perhaps the most forthright emblem in the show: a patchwork of time and space, speculative reality and lived experience that, looking outward, begins to reflect an identity back at itself.
Edgar Leciejewski (born 1977, Berlin) lives and works in Leipzig, Germany. He studied at the Academy of Visual Art in Leipzig, completing his postgraduate studies in 2011. He was an artist-in-residence in 2010 at the ISCP in New York, in 2013 at NSCAD University in Halifax, Canada, in 2014 at the Fogo Island Arts Residency, and in 2015 at the Goethe-Institut in Toronto. Recent exhibitions include Nullzwölf Nulldreizehn at the Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig (2014); Fotografie at Spinnerei Archiv Massiv in Leipzig (2014); Saxonia Paper II at Kunsthalle Leipzig (2014); Vanity at Kunsthalle Vienna (2012), which traveled in 2013 to the National Museum in Krakow, Poland; Disappearing Into One at Zabludowicz Collection in London (2013); Privat, at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2012); and Making is Thinking at Witte de With in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2011).