Conrad Ventur is an artist working in photography, video, and installation. Since 2000, Ventur has consistently taken immensely personal and instinctive photographs of his subjects – often those under threat of being forgotten or rewritten over time. The artist’s working process mirrors that of an ethnographer; immersing himself within these relationships for extended periods, Ventur’s photographs reveal an intimacy and trust, and are ultimately personal documents of both the subject and the artist.
Recent subjects include the reclusive 1960s underground film star Mario Montez who Ventur befriended and through their collaboration, encouraged to return to drag performance. Mario’s sudden death in 2013 led Ventur into a period of philosophical reflection. Aware of Ventur’s bereavement, artist Rafael Sánchez was at that moment confronting the illness and eventual death to cancer of his partner, painter Kathleen White. Kathleen passed away in September 2014; shortly thereafter Sánchez invited Ventur to live in the New York apartment that he had shared with Kathleen on 1st Avenue, New York City.
Since Kathleen’s departure, the apartment has become a site where her presence is evoked and minded via the maintenance of the objects that remain and the acts of her grieving partner. For over a year, Ventur opened his heart and lens to this environment, whilst participating in the sensitive process of archiving Kathleen’s art.
The title of the show refers to one of Kathleen and Rafael’s works (Pink Seat, 2012) in which a bandana was used by White to cover her weathered bicycle seat and later turned into an artwork and hung at a window adjacent to the avenue.
Pink Seat allows for numerous points of entry for Ventur’s conversation with his subjects; Kathleen and Rafael’s romance, and the environment and language they created for each other and their work.
When considering its origin as the cover for the seat of her ride and its present resting place, it serves as a perfect indicator of Duchamp’s Infrathin: an idea that can only be expressed through example, i.e. the warmth of a seat just after someone has left it; the sensation as you enter a room that someone has just been there but is no longer.
Ventur explores the photographic process, the medium’s relationship to time and its passing, it’s relationship to truth, the way our visual consciousness overlaps memory and the performative aspect of the medium. The durational approach of the artist’s practice - the daily documenting and revisiting of scenes, still lives and tableaux within the apartment - allow us the opportunity to look in a slower and more intense manner, emphasising photography’s ability to both freeze and extend time.
Conrad Ventur’s work has been exhibited at The Andy Warhol Museum, the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, PARTICIPANT INC., Moscow International Biennial III and Kunsthalle Winterthur, Switzerland. Recent solo screenings include The High Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and C/O, Berlin. A selection of Ventur’s videos are in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art.
Pink Seat is presented by Rokeby in conversation with Conrad Ventur and the Estate of Kathleen White.