New York Photo Review
Volume 5 Issue 6 February 11 to 17, 2014

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

All That’s Left
Andrea Tese
Ed Barnas

Photo by Andrea Tese . Source: Andrea Tese, "Five Bottles (Hidden Stash)"

Death and decay are perennial subjects for artists (See “Fallen,” the current exhibit by Tanya Marcuse at Julie Saul). Andrea Tese, who has admitted a fascination with death, approaches the topic from a somewhat roundabout direction. When her grandmother died, she sought out everyone in the world who had her grandmother’s “blood,” and photographed them for the portrait series: “What’s Left Behind.” Later, when her grandfather died, her focus shifted to his house and the things he left behind, creating a series of over seventy images, a small fraction of which are on display in “Inheritance” at the De Buck Gallery. Despite the number of items chronicled in these images, there is a sense of emptiness, and of the loss of people who had accumulated these “things.” That absence is palpable to the photographer, and in a number of these images she has communicated it to the viewer as well.

Photo by Andrea Tese . Source: Andrea Tese, "Fishing Gear, c-print on paper" 2010-2012

While the photographs depict her grandfather’s possessions in the context of his home, they are deliberately arranged. Only one, Five Bottles, shows them as he might have left them. Rather, objects are sorted into various categories and photographed on the floor or up against the wood-paneled walls. A number of these photographs do have a deceptively prosaic appearance, as if created to record the contents for an estate sale. The contents of the kitchen cabinets – china, pots, and utensils– are stacked on the floor against an unpainted square on the wall where the oven might have been. Fishing gear leans against the cinderblock garage wall, some tackle still in original packaging. Tools are in the attic and gardening gear against a side fence. There is little, if any, furniture evident, as if those items had already been dispersed.

Photo by Andrea Tese . Source: Andrea Tese, "Civil Service Accessories, c-print on paper" 2010-2012

However, other images are more deliberately arranged and may call up an emotional response from the viewer: Grandma’s Lists, handwritten on ruled white paper, are carefully laid out in an orderly grid completely covering the floor and wall to the image’s edge. Important Documents, recording birth, death and everything in-between, are laid in a disorderly pile on the geometric grid of the floor, an envelope of “old deeds” partly obscured by one marked “very old deeds.” Civil Service Accessories - badges, truncheon and an old fireman’s helmet - are arranged carefully on a staircase. Mementos of childhood, Hair and Teeth, are offered up in a small wooden jewelry box, the yellow of the interior working nicely against the light-colored paneling. For many the wall paneling so popular decades ago and the warm wood tones in many of these images will serve to call up memories of visits to older relatives. Looking at the photo of a pile of old luggage by the corner of the house, I wondered what pieces Tese herself might have chosen to put in a bag and take with her in addition to the photographic record she has created.

The sharply detailed photographs are C-prints, mostly 40x50 in size and are all mounted without mats in simple dark frames that complement the apparent simplicity of the images.

Andrea Tese

De Buck Gallery
545 W 23rd St.
Chelsea         Map

212 255 5735

Thursday, January 9 to
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Hours: Tur-Fri, 10 to 6, Sat, 11 to 6

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