FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Splendid Isolation: Pathological Self-Absorption before the Age of Social Media
SPRING/BREAK Art Show
February 28 – March 6, 2017
John Brill takes on this year’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show theme, Black Mirror, through a comprehensive and complex installation of hand-crafted photography accompanied by a clutter of heavy wooden furniture, dimly glowing lamps and television screens, and a purely fictional reality. Toying with the idea of the negotiable nature of autobiography, Brill traces an arc through forty years of work. Utilizing autonomous images of scripted self-portraits documented since the 1970s, which susses out the sliding scale of dualities in autobiography and imagination, reality and fiction, and representation and contrivance.
Brill had a chance encounter over a decade ago when Douglas Walla had encouraged Brill to visit the Gramercy Park Art Fair. In this moment, as he wandered through the hallways of the hotel, he understood that as nice as his photographic prints looked in a ‘White Box,’ the best context for viewing his work operate in real rooms; whether in hotels, apartments, houses, etc. where he can play upon expectant and reassuring familiarity gestalt and he can subvert with dissonant content. Thomas Michelli in a review published in Hyperallergic writes about Brill’s environments, “But what’s even more intriguing and irresistible, is that even after you’ve looked more closely ad Brill’s photographs — bleached and burned images of screaming babies, crucified nudes and readioactive heads — or stared a the the grainy video of a ski-masked face floating on an antique TV screen, the installation continues to suck you in without losing its initial welcoming presence. . . It’s a deliciously ineffable sensation, suspended between piercing images of extreme noir and the silky ambiance of a burnished, incandescent oasis, an exquisite coupling of comfort and dread.”
After the full-fledged knowledge that Brill’s prints must reside within their own universe, Brill states that he does not always have the space or the luxury to fulfill these projects at his home in New Jersey. He says, “I have to hold it all in my head, so you can imagine that it’s a real rush when I’m holding this idea in my head for a year or two, and then it actually works when I install it in the real world. I see the installation for the first time when the audience sees it for the first time as well.” He also states, “More than anything, doing an installation gives me the opportunity to combine the autobiographical (a lot of stuff is taken right from my residence and work space) with the whimsical, to create a purely fictional reality; some of it is me, some is imagined, and if I’m successful, they mesh seamlessly.”
Brill started making images when he was eight years old; he states, “It was like magic.” His inspiration is derived from personal images that he saw in photo albums, on people’s walls, dressers, and the slides his father would project onto screens when his family would get together. Being self-taught was fundamentally imperative for Brill. Not in the sense that his work was de-skilled intentionally or a lacking in the craft of photography, but quite the opposite wherein it is fundamental to shaping different ways of seeing the world and the role that image-making plays in shaping one’s identity and craft. As Brill simply states it, “It transcends mere art making.” When we live with the dark residue of our histories, we meet ourselves as caretakers of our histories, both real and imagined.