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Matthew Brandt: ‘River and Sky’ at Yossi Milo Gallery

Art Scene

Matthew Brandt: ‘River and Sky’ at Yossi Milo Gallery

Large-scale light boxes are contrasted by small-scale gelatin silver prints in Matthew Brandt’s exhibition River and Sky at Yossi Milo Gallery. The two new bodies of work, Stepping Stone Falls and Bridges Over Flint, feature images taken in Flint, Michigan, the site of a recent public water crisis that is still unresolved.

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Photo: Anders Jones

Of note in both series is Brandt’s process. The Stepping Stone Falls lightbox images are processed with water from the Flint River, a 78-mile long river that runs through three counties in Michigan. The gelatin silver prints in the Bridges Over Flint series are processed with household tap water from Flint that includes lead and other contaminates found to be in the city’s water supply.

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Photo: Anders Jones

In each series, Brandt is interested in creating a dynamic relationship between his subject matter and the medium of photography. In the case of river water, ideas of erosion link content and process, and in the case of tap water, the unknown forces of contamination in the printing process reflect the precarious health situation of Flint residents who have consumed the local water source.

In the 8”x10” images in the Bridges Over Flint series depicting bridges over the Flint River, Brandt chose to play with color by adding ingredients such as Vitamin C, red wine or bleach to create subtle dashes of color on various prints. Installed in the exhibition space to highlight the slight color gradations amongst the images, from light to dark, the series as a whole has a sublime historic character despite being created in 2016.

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Photo: Anders Jones

The Stepping Stone Falls series features color images of a manmade dam and waterfall in Flint that holds back the Flint River, creating the 600-acre Mott Lake. Brandt’s approach to color in these images is equally experimental, yet more time consuming. The initial photographs were color separated onto three individual Duraclear sheets, then placed under flowing Flint River water for several weeks. As a result, this process created distinct patterns similar to the erosion that occurs naturally in the context of rivers, oceans and other bodies of water. The final presentation of the ultimately abstract works reassembles the Duraclear color layers – cyan, magenta and yellow – in LED light boxes at the size of 88 ¾” x 48 ¾”, with a couple of smaller pieces on view as well.

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Photo: Anders Jones

Brandt’s work in this exhibition branches out into new territory with his choice to depict the built environment of Flint, a transition from past work that focused on subjects from nature – bees, trees, lakes, and reservoirs. However, it is evident from the unique process and abstract elements in the images in River and Sky that nature, this time in the form of water, is still the driving force in Brandt’s creative imagination.