New York Photo Review
from the NYPR Archives

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Bent and Twisted
Randy West
Tethered
R. Wayne Parsons
Tethered #6 by Randy West. Source: brucesilverstein.com
Randy West, "Tethered #6" 2010

Recent fashion in photography has not been kind to work that emphasizes form over content. More often we encounter large color photos documenting some aspect of the contemporary world, not images that take as their subject the pure shape and form of everyday objects (or even not so everyday ones.)

Fortunately, the curators at Bruce Silverstein Gallery have not turned their backs on formalist photography, as the current exhibition of “Tethered” by Randy West proves. Mr. West has offered up large, 32” by 40” prints whose subjects appear to be long narrow pieces of paper the artist has manipulated into bent and twisted clumps. The accompanying text tells us these paper strips are in fact rejected prints from the photographer’s darkroom. While the images at first glance appear to be black and white, they are in reality color chromogenic prints of black and white subjects; a tell-tale clue is the presence of slight bits of blue fringing on some of the edges, a problem that should have been corrected in preparing the digital files for printing.

Tethered #1 by Randy West. Source: brucesilverstein.com
Randy West, "Tethered #1" 2010

Image capture was by means of a flat-bed scanner rather than a traditional camera; all one need do is lay the paper on the glass and hit “Scan.” (Actually there’s a bit more to it, but not much.) A characteristic of using a scanner is that objects on or close to the glass appear brightly lit and in focus, while the further the object is from the glass the darker and fuzzier it becomes. Given how we associate dark, fuzzy things as further away than bright, sharp ones, the scanner creates images of pronounced three dimensionality, and these images succeed markedly in that respect. They also succeed as interesting images of mundane material and merit detailed study.

There are eight images in this small series, five of which are on display (all eight may be seen on the gallery’s website.) But a major weakness of the project is that these photographs are interchangeable. West has consistently followed the same approach in image making by placing the folded and jumbled up paper in a single mass in the middle of the picture frame. If you left the gallery and returned half an hour later after the photos had been shuffled you probably would not notice the change. It’s no surprise there are only eight images; one would suffice. We can only wonder why the artist did not use more variety and inventiveness in positioning his material on the platen.

So is this the ultimate word on the subject? It will be interesting to see if West, or anyone else, continues where he left off.

Randy West
Tethered


Bruce Silverstein
535 W 24th St. Ground Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 627 3930
brucesilverstein.com

Thursday, June 9 to
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Hours: Summer Hours: Mon-Fri 10 to 6
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery