Jules Maeght Gallery is pleased to announce Compose Decompose Recompose, an exhibition of photography curated by Luc Sokolsky that draws on the manipulation by the artist’s hand and mind rather than the technical aspects of the camera. Exploring the diverse possibilities of collage, bacteria, artificial lighting, sensor tampering and more, the exhibition brings together the work of Dean Bentley, Glen Cheriton, Wolfgang Ganter, Cait Molloy, and Jackson Patterson. For these five artists, photography is a method rather than a medium, a tool used to capture an imagined or created image, rather than one that is solely seen.
Compose Decompose Recompose is the distillation of photographic process. The work of each artist begins with an idea or story. A precise and methodical process follows which enables singular images to capture these greater themes or narratives. From conception to manipulation to the pertinent act of printing, each artist has honed their craft to make the camera merely a tool in an intricate process of image-making, functioning as a time machine to relive the past, ponder the future, or question what is fiction or reality.
The intricately layered photomontages of Dean Bentley create engaging narratives by juxtaposing printed photographs repurposed as the subject of new images in the same spot they were originally taken. These recompilations of images place an emphasis on narrative - every detail is intentional and exquisite. At times, Bentley’s works rely on destruction of the original image, while with others, the fragmented source is recreated. This intricate mise-en-scene suggests choreographed storytelling, where each element is precisely arranged.
The work of Glen Cheriton relies on hacking film cameras to create images that question our sense of time. By reworking sensors and shutters, Glen’s images are the opposite of what we expect from a photograph, they freeze the viewer in time rather than an image. Sixteen-foot “timelines” allow us to reconsider if a photograph represents a single image, as one shot captures the passage of time in a single place. His series Earth Trails imagines a world contrary to the rotation of the earth, dismounting our relativity to the night sky.
By infecting film with bacteria, Wolfgang Ganter embraces the beauty of decay and necessity of change. In the series Works in Progress, he duplicates masterpieces of art, from the Mona Lisa to Rembrant to works of the Renaissance in 35mm film. The negatives are then infected with bacteria in a highly controlled manner, until arriving at the optimum moment of aesthetics and new content. Implicit in his richly colored, luminous works is an acceptance of natural processes; while the artist may have finished their contribution to a work, maybe time and nature have not.
To Cait Molloy, reality and fiction blur as she brings the photography studio to the natural world and the recreation of the natural world to the studio. Through analog manipulation of lighting, and in sculpture with tissue, carton and cardboard, Molloy blurs the divide between studio and landscape. The interchange between these two spaces subverts the viewer’s perception of reality by minimizing borders and differences between the two. Casting her constructions and theatrical lighting on a world both created and natural, Molloy’s work is a subtle but pervasive reminder that what we see is far more interpretation than replication.
Jackson Patterson’s photomontages tie together his family’s photographic archives with his own images, often of the American west. Stories of perseverance, pride, struggle, life and death manifest in a surreal landscape, where historical photos are often so subtly integrated it becomes difficult to discern where one image ends and the next begins. The work projects an illusion about our understanding of time, the photomontages are convincing enough to allow us to overlook the original stories in order to create new ones.
The work of these five artists, although united by a coincidence of camera and lens, is in reality and meticulous honing of craft and process. While photography often suggests the capture of a single moment in time the works in Compose Decompose Recompose propose a collision between past, present and future. In accordance with William Faulkner’s assertion: “the past is never dead, it is not even past,” the work in this exhibition question our relativity and perception of time.