Traces of the Material World: Jessica Backhaus, Capucine Bourcart, and Paola Ferrario
Curated by Jean Dykstra
Opening reception: September 7, 7PM - 9PM
On view: September 8 - October 8, 2017
happylucky no.1 is pleased to announce Traces of the Material World featuring artists Paola Ferrario, Capucine Bourcart, and Jessica Backhaus, each in her own way, focuses on vernacular imagery – snippets of graffiti, the patched-up hood of a car, a length of string twisted in the sun – transforming the most pedestrian of things into compact visual poems. Their observational images reframe and recontextualize small, ordinary scenes, drawing our attention to the material world.
The thread connecting these different bodies of work is their ability to draw out “the expressive possibilities of the detail,” as John Szarkowski put it in his introduction to William Eggleston’s Guide. All three artists can be described as traditionalists, photographically speaking. There’s little digital trickery or manipulation in their prints. Rather, the work has to do with a distinctly photographic way of looking and a democratic approach to their medium. These photographers are not ruled by any external hierarchy determining the proper subject matter for a work of art, but rather by a finely tuned internal sense of color and composition. A scrap of signage or the leopard print tape on the wheel well of a car, it’s all there for these mindful observers.
Born in Italy and based in Massachusetts, Paola Ferrario is engaged in an ongoing process of cataloging the artifacts of a material world in decline. These include cars in disrepair, crumbling walls, signs, bits of asphalt, graffiti, or fragments of statuary. Taken together, in a series of grids and rows, her photographs play off of each other, creating new conversations and associations, some funny, some poignant. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography and a Paul Taylor Dorothea Lange Prize in Photography from Duke University, among other awards, Ferrario has been a visiting artist at Smith College and her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Museum.
A French artist who has made Harlem her home for the the last 12 years, Capucine Bourcart combines photography with the craft of sewing in her series Haute Couture. A transplant to the city, she got to knew New York by foot, methodically walking through every neighborhood with her camera, taking pictures as she went, documenting fragments of wall, slivers of doors, the numbers of street addresses, or tiled patterns on a building. Drawing on her huge archive of imagery, she then sews the small prints (3x3 or 3x4 inches) together in a crossword puzzle-patterned grid, creating multifaceted portraits of specific neighborhoods, from Hell’s Kitchen to the West Village to Chinatown and Harlem. Bourcart has shown at the Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation in Brooklyn, at the Bruce Museum, and at the Musée Théodore Deck in Guebwiller, France.
Jessica Backhaus is a German photographer now based in Berlin. In previous series, including What Still Remains or Once, Still and Forever, she photographed overlooked scenes – leaves on a wet pavement, an abandoned umbrella, the leftovers of a meal after everyone has left the table – images of in-between states, turning points, when the breath is momentarily held. Beyond Blue, one of three new series to be published next month in the book A Trilogy (Kehrer), is even more contemplative, more tightly focused. As if practicing a visual mantra, she takes as her recurring subject the most incidental thing, a piece of string, photographing it in different shapes on variously colored backgrounds in the sunlight, to explore the vagaries of form and color. The simple shapes become like a meditation, or a kind of photographic chant. Backhaus shows with the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, the Robert Morat Galerie in Berlin, and the Wouter van Leeuwen Gallery in Amsterdam, among other galleries, and her work is included in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Deutsche Bank Collection, among others.