New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 17 April 17 to 23, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Color and Light
Liz Nielsen
Tiger Teeth: Red Light
Christopher Stromee

Photo by Liz Nielsen . Source: bcontemporary.com
Liz Nielsen, "Composition: Two Birds" 2012.
Incorporating cheerful, color-field hues, Liz Nielsen’s unique photogram-collage hybrids on exhibit at Benrimon are whimsical and exhilarating. Composed of playful quasi-geometric shapes that typically seem to bulge upward, expand sideways, droop or bounce, most of her compositions have a rough left-right symmetry. Alert to the dialogue between representation and abstraction, Nielsen’s shapes often overlap, areas of contrasting color demarcated within an overall form adding to the impression of collage.

At first these shapes appear to be photo cutouts glued to another photographic paper surface. Actually, they are enlarged photograms of palm-sized arrangements of colored gels, the kind used for stage light filters and cut into shapes. Placed on to the glass surface of an enlarger in the dark room, the gels are exposed to a faint light in the red-orange end of the spectrum, the result producing a kind of photogram. Color photograms are especially difficult to make since brightness will fade out the hues.

Nielsen has long been fascinated with the physics of light: how different wavelengths correspond to each hue, the quality of light produced by different light sources, and the effects of one light color mixed with another. Using red light as illumination (because it has the dimmest intensity and least energetic wavelength) results in the faint red borders apparent on many of the images. Further, the photogram colors are the color complements of the gel colors. For example, the green that we see corresponds to a magenta gel. Likewise, the black backgrounds are the reverse of the (non-color) white of the glass on which the gels are placed.

Photo by Liz Nielsen . Source: bcontemporary.com
Liz Nielsen, "Composition: Movie Theater" 2013.
In Composition: Angel, a blue elongated off-balance oval overlays an unevenly formed green triangle, all against a black ground. With its lower corner somewhat stretched out to the right, the triangular form seems to be advancing. In Composition: Highway Majesty, a landscape of horizontal, slightly undulating layers of black, indigo and lavender tapers off to the right. Dominating the piece is an aqua sky. Composition: Orbiter I is less suggestive of any recognizable object. A horizontal, predominantly aqua stripe overlays a primarily green ovoid that contains a faintly visible smaller rounded form reminiscent of a sonogram. The colors vary with the overlapping of shapes while the background of the composition’s upper half is black.

While the process may seem convoluted, it is hard to see how Nielsen could produce these appealing photogram textures with the flash of a photograph. There is a particular print-like softness to the colors and hand-cut edges that reinforces the sense of animated playfulness. Variations in color density evident in many of the shapes are another appealing textural outcome. Overall, it is Nielsen’s color palette and witty abstract shapes that draw in and charm the viewer.

Liz Nielsen
Tiger Teeth: Red Light


Benrimon Contemporary
514 W 24th St. 2nd Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 924 2400
bcontemporary.com

Saturday, March 9 to
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 to 8; Sun 12 to 6
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