In 1962, Gerhard Richter began his epic, encyclopedic work, Atlas, which consisted of some 3,800 photographic images of everything from amateur family photographs to landscapes. The archival works collage imagery in a way that analyzes both the specificity of each individual image, as well as the context that the images together create. Richter’s quote—“I can only get a handle on the flood of pictures by creating order since there are no individual pictures at all anymore [emphasis added]”—aptly titles Saltworks Gallery’s current exhibition, Flood of Pictures. The exhibit features three artists, all using layering techniques to repurpose and recontextualize their imagery, much in the same way as Richter’s Atlas.
Harrison Haynes’ work is both minimal and overwhelming. His collage Untitled (Form 1) illustrates kudzu engulfing human forms and garbage, while Untitled (Form 2) shows a simple a mass of kudzu. Depending on how you read them, the two works can represent either pre- or post-consumption. Known to Southerners as “the vine that ate the South,” kudzu is infamous for how quickly it flourished after it was imported from southern Japan to combat soil erosion. It seems apropos that Haynes’ images of the plant are placed at the head of a show about the transmission of information and imagery en masse. What in fact does this overload of imagery accomplish? Does it prove more destructive than informative? These are the questions raised by a show where the viewer is overwhelmed with imagery—to see what comes of it for the audience. (A fun tidbit about these works: The images came from photographs taken while on tour with Haynes’ band, Les Savy Fav.)
On the other hand, Katy Clove’s work is the most simplistic of the group. She has torn, cut, and burned white paper to show silhouettes of people and objects engaged in a variety of tasks. Each work addresses the idea of a Flood of Pictures in a single product resulting from the hundreds of images she referenced along the way. Clove’s panoramic silhouette, Untitled Frieze, has a narrative sensibility reminiscent of Kara Walker. The pieces benefit from Clove’s more minimalist approach and allow the viewer to focus on the story at hand.
Brian Dettmer’s work is pretty fucking cool. Dettmer took old encyclopedias, cut into them,
and reinserted images from magazines, textbooks, and God knows what else. [ED: See the artist's comment below.] The works become curiosity cabinets of lost eras within the spines of reworked books; the architectural textures are just as impressive as the sheer number of images within. The billowy masses that encompass the interiors give each work an even more worn and bloated appearance.
Dettmer’s work on its own is worth the trip to see this show. All in all, though, Flood of Pictures is well curated and bolsters my opinion that Saltworks is one of the better galleries in Atlanta for group shows.
Food of Pictures will remain on view at Saltworks Gallery through August 1.