At first glance, the works on view closely resemble bland paintings one would expect to see above the couch as decoration. My disappointment quickly turned into awe when I stepped closer to what I thought were unimaginative imitations of abstract expressionist paintings, but were actually printed photographs. The series of works prove that the visual boundary between painting and photography can be quite porous. Wyatt Gallery captured various surfaces that were once occupied by advertisements. Each of the ten photographs has a unique texture with pieces of flyers that were roughly torn away from the surface. The photographs, however, are less about the surfaces themselves, and more about the absent advertisement.
“Subtext II: Meditations” functions as a documentation of brief moments in the lives of these surfaces that will again transform once new advertisements are pasted on to them. Gallery exposes the physical victimhood of the surfaces that involuntarily suffer the advertisements’ rude inhabitance. The beautiful wretchedness of the vacant surfaces derives from the impermanent nature of the partnership between the advertisement and the surface, which expires almost as soon as the advertisement is no longer relevant in fulfilling its agenda to sell a brand of makeup, new Netflix show, or a “better” food delivery service. The surfaces’ solitary moments are their most innocent moments because they are not charged with the task of being a platform for objects of promotion, marketing, or even manipulation.
Yet, Gallery is not necessarily commenting on the velocity of capitalism in New York City. In fact, the photographs reflect Gallery’s admiration for identifying these spaces, from which he finds tranquility while awaiting the subway. Rarely do people stumble upon visible vacancy in New York. Vacancy in our thoughts is even rarer in New York, where several parties target our attention perpetually and simultaneously. The unoccupied surface provided Gallery the opportunity to look at relative nothingness. In turn, Gallery’s provides viewers with photographs of vacancy that have the appearance of paint that fills the canvases.
Subtext II: Meditations
On View: May 17 – June 25, 2017
59 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Writing by Seung Hee Kim