Stature

Stature

"Stature" features eight photogravures taken of the artist's studio constructions. As is typical of the artist, the series masterfully balances on a fulcrum between fiction and documentary traditions, "commonplace" materials and rarefied results, flattened photos of ambiguous scale and three-dimensional references. The forms in "Stature" could refer to Brutalist architecture, outdated machinery, or modernist monsters, but in fact they are concrete and plaster casts of discarded consumer packaging. Their immobility, too, is an illusion - all the forms are carefully stacked and tenuously balanced, rather than glued in place. There is ample metaphor to be quietly contemplated - i.e., undoing a politically repressive regime's monuments with one push - but Valenzuela resists didactic urges, and instead embeds his interests in labor, capitalism, and socio-political symbols into serene images that slowly reveal their many languages.

Valenzuela's previous work in photography has continually been black and white, which the artist believes facilitates a simpler reading of the material and allows for more emphasis on form and iconography. The works in "Stature", while still monochrome, bring a new palette of rich grey-sepia tones, lending them an old-fashioned gravitas. The pre-film photogravure printing process results in images that are more tactile than traditional photographs, and certainly when compared to the digital image, feel almost like charcoal drawings. The process also points to Valenzuela's long-standing interest in valorizing unseen labor - it is heavily physical, involves collaboration, and can only supply a limited number of hand-pulled prints, in contrast to the immediacy and infinite reproduction capacity we usually expect of photography.

Valenzuela's choice of polystyrene forms and concrete respectively bridge the throwaway culture that high capitalism incurs and the ubiquity of institutional structures that wield their authority through material choice. Having grown up in Pinochet's Chile, Valenzuela has long been familiar with the imagery of protest and nationalist messaging. With quietly seductive photogravures, Valenzuela offers a surprising generosity of layers: a re-evaluation of black-and-white documentary photographic tradition, art historical awareness, and a fascination with the power of architecture to impose control. His laboriously constructed mirages entrance us with their potency.

Stature

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