As part of this year’s European Month of Photography, BORCH Gallery & Editions show works by Lewis Baltz, Tacita Dean, Olafur Eliasson, Adam Jeppesen, Clay Ketter, and Boris Mikhailov. The exhibition investigates the medium of photogravure, offering a survey of its spectrum of conceptual possibilities.
Photogravure is one of the oldest and most haptic ways of transferring a photo to a piece of paper: A photopositive is brought onto a printing plate by exposing its light-sensitive material through a finely rasterized film, thereby creating microscopic indentations in the plate’s surface. Depending on their depth, these indentations hold different amounts of ink during the printing process, thus allowing for a more extensive colour gradation than any other printing technique. Niels Borch Jensen Editions have been working with photogravures since the early 1990s in order to accommodate contemporary artists’ desire to include photographic material into their work.
LEWIS BALTZ‘ (1945–2014) project Amazonas (1995) is one of the first series of colour photogravures ever created in Niels Borch Jensen’s Copenhagen print studio. The work is atypical for the artist, who is most famous for minimalist black-and-white photographs depicting the impact of industrialization on nature. Since the early 1990s, Baltz has been using colour in his works to fathom the influence of technology on the medium of photography. The coloured photogravures of the Amazonas-series are scaled extracts of a film that he took on a touristic journey in the Amazonas region.
Before the Hessen State Museum in Darmstadt restored the Block Beuys, the last installation of works put together by Joseph Beuys himself, TACITA DEAN (*1965) had the opportunity to document the vacant rooms with her camera. Her approach stood in close relation to Beuys’ own work: She focused on the spatial details and the wall coverings’ patches and flaws. Darmstädter Werkblock (2008) consists of eight photogravures, depicting Dean’s very own perspective on Beuys’ intense microcosm.
Albeit being photographs, OLAFUR ELIASSON’s (*1967) Inverted Campfire Series (2006) has an almost painterly quality. He captured the Icelandic tradition of lighting bonfires on New Year’s Eve to burn the old burdens and banish the evil spirits of the old year. Ten black-and-white photogravures show the scenery from a wider angle. By inverting the images, the depicted people themselves become the ghostly figures they try to scare away.
ADAM JEPPESEN (*1978) is a voyager, drawn to remote, deserted places. Vast, seemingly abandoned landscapes give no hint of their geographic location. Traces like an empty path or a far away column of smoke merely suggest human presence. The titles of the works on show, June 19th, October 9th, and October 10th (all 2015), simply point to the date of their creation. The light, almost translucent application of ink in the photogravures underlines the solitude of the landscapes. They seem dreamlike and detached from time and space, offering the beholder a surface for personal mindscapes.
For his series Road (2002), CLAY KETTER (*1961) took pictures of street surfaces from a bird’s-eye perspective. His photogravures appear like—in this case minimalistic—paintings. The black-and-white color scheme further supports this impression. For Ketter, a road is neither an allegory of the past on which we look back, nor is it the future; Road shows the here and now, the artist’s own viewpoint at the time of the shot and the street from an obvious but surprisingly unknown perspective.
BORIS MIKHAILOV (*1938) is one of the most important photographic chronicler of life in the Ukraine before and after the demise of the Soviet Union. In his extensive body of work, he offers an intimate insight into everyday-life around him. Mikhailov’s works initially captivate through their blunt, honest documentation of social reality. On closer examination, the artist’s personal view and occasional political comment become visible. At times, Mikhailov manually alters his photographs, thereby transforming them into unique works. The photogravures on display revert this process once again by turning the works into editions, snatching their uniqueness away again, and playing with one of the key aspect of photography: its reproducibility.
The exhibition is part of EMOP Berlin – European Month of Photography