Blackout, the three person exhibition currently on view at Ibid Gallery, is an exercise in imagistic complication. While these artists—Richard Hamilton, Carlo Mollino, and John Stezaker—have only minor overlaps as cultural and philosophical practitioners, the exhibition tugs at the common, if sometimes tenuous, threads in their work.
The show’s title dually refers to media suppression and memory failure. Though, largely dispensing with these literal definitions of the term, Blackout instead refers to obfuscations at play in each photographically-informed work; every artist can be seen here as a maverick interrupter of image legibility. This conceit is best seen in Stezaker’s collages Double Shadow LV (2015) and Shades (2016). Both consist of an upside-down image onto which a silhouetted photograph has been superimposed—a terse gesture whose use of the figure/ground relationship all but collapses it.
A painted city skyline occupying the gallery walls grafts a notion of architectural facade onto the show but undermines the interiority found in many of the works themselves. Richard Hamilton’s Italian Baroque Interior(1979), for example, is a collage wherein photographic and painterly representations of interior architecture converse and coalesce into a luminous, amber-hued whole. This emphasis of domesticity is echoed by the work of architect Carlo Mollino, whose inclusions, somewhat ironically, are not images of his angular buildings, but rather are portraits of women posing in various states of undress.
Seemingly the show’s outlier, Mollino’s images initially appear as the result of straightforward fashion shoots, yet the relationship between maker and model is anything but easy to parse. Indeed, the inability to easily unpack Mollino’s photographs, along with the associative collages of Stezaker and Hamilton, leaves a residue that is as vague as it is specific, as seductive as it is cerebral. Like desperately trying to recall a memory after a blackout.
Image: John Stezaker, Shades (2016). Collage, 9 1/4 x 11 5/8 inches (unframed). Image courtesy the artist and The Approach.
Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, June 21, 2017