Grass of Memory: Photography by Pratt Institute Faculty & Staff

Art Scene

Grass of Memory: Photography by Pratt Institute Faculty & Staff

A lively reminder of the pleasures of experimentation, tradition and narrative can be found in Pratt Institute’s annual photography department faculty and staff exhibition, Grass of Memory. A variety of work is on view, ranging from figurative to abstract and spanning media that includes video and gif, inkjet, silver gelatin and chromogenic print, and embroidery.

Anne Turyn, Lensless class, camera obscura paper negative, class project,2011, 11″ x 8 ½” framed to 14” x 11″, C-print

Most of the work is small to medium scale, with the exception of a large-scale video projection, and a fabric and wood installation in an alcove at the back of the gallery. The video by Stephanie Powell, a corrective emotional adjustment, is shot in black and white and features a handful of feminine performers dressed in black wearing white masks. The video tells its narrative through flowing dance-like movement, tracing the evolution of one female character.  Set in an empty white walled room with long white curtains blowing in a gentle breeze, the protagonist moves through the room, at first alone and maskless. Eventually, she joins the other Geisha-like characters, donning the same mask; one that features a depersonalized, clinically pleasant expression.

Stephanie Powell, a corrective emotional adjustment, 2017, Size Variable, Video

In another black and white piece, a fascinating take on portraiture is at work. It is a single photograph by Lauren Roeder, New York City, New York, that appears both staged and spontaneous at the same time. Reminiscent of the multi-person staging of Annie Leibovitz, it speaks of not only portraiture, but documentary and street photography as well. It links contemporary culture with historical references through the fashion of its subjects (puffy coats, sneakers and aviator glasses) and the architecture of old New York stretching into the depths of the frame. As bystanders linger, looking and waiting for something, a young child stands atop a ladder at the center of the image in the middle of a street. Her augmented height echoes the tall buildings that cascade down both sides of the image’s frame. Several interesting and confounding details add clues, but not an answer, to the ambiguous story behind the photograph.

Lauren Roeder, New York City, New York, 2016, 9” x 13”, matted and framed to 17” x 21”, Archival Inkjet Print

Visiting Assistant Professor, Sarah Palmer, the curator of the exhibition, seems to have had fun selecting several works by her colleagues that will leave viewers with tantalizing questions. In a seemingly mundane series of nine photographs of wood office doors by Anna Shteynshleyger, door plaques or office signage are highlighted. The interplay of acronyms for therapists, lawyers and doctors (Dr., Esq., A.C.S.W., Psy.D., etc.) in the series seems to beguilingly suggest all the potential players in a divorce proceeding. Fortunato POPO-CHICHI #1by Fortunato Castro, also tells an open ended tale. The back of a figure in an over the top white wedding style dress with black billowing hair, wearing red gloves, pulls down on a green and white striped backdrop with red and white polka dot balloons to the right. A quality of madness or a scary clown comes to mind that may leave viewers, as well as Pratt’s incoming students, desiring more.

Ernst Fischer, Acheiropoietos #1, 2016, 40 ½” x 23 ½”, Silk, pigment ink, flat screen component, magnets, nails

Pratt Institute’s Grass of Memory: Photography Faculty & Staff exhibition is on view through September 20, 2018.