GATESHEAD.- BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
presents American artist Mariah Robertsons first solo exhibition in the UK, opened on Saturday 25 June.
Highly aware of our technology-saturated world, the images Robertson creates typically have a nostalgia that, at first, seems to hark back to a slower, pre-digital era. Using photographic paper, often at a monumental scale, her darkroom experiments utilise analogue techniques now in their demise to create a synergy between chance, luck and her highly-considered methods.
Robertson manipulates the tools and materials of the photographic process to capitalise on their inherent strengths and weaknesses. She uses photographs, photograms, colour separation, oversaturated hues and exposes objects directly onto the paper, bypassing the camera lens. An array of chemical drips and mishaps are also used to paint the photographic surface. Collageing disparate elements onto irregularly cut photographic paper, Robertson layers them into a single composition to create what she terms an impossible image. The elaborate compositions, lush with colour, include both representative and abstract images; recent motifs include palm fronds, male nudes and grids. However, her works are as much about the process of making as they are the interplay between different images and sources.
Her work is presented in a way that brings a sculptural presence. 8, 2011, included in the exhibition, rests in a heavy, over-sized frame that stands directly on the floor and leans against the wall. The roughly-cut glossy, metallic paper is allowed to curl inside, pressing against its limits. 9, 2011, also included, is an entire roll of photographic paper, a structure that runs across and cascades from the ceiling, unraveling around the gallery like a film-strip. The physicality brought about by these modes of display moves the work far beyond the traditions of her chosen medium. Re-writing its rules, she also preserves them, encapsulating a time and method before it disappears completely.