With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer Joshua Schaedel has funded The Fulcrum, a single-room gallery on the second floor of Chinatown’s bustling Far East Plaza, primarily through his career as an art photographer-for-hire: Over the last decade, he has documented countless exhibitions for Los Angeles’ major museums and galleries. Schaedel is refreshingly forthright about the fact that his commercial work has helped sustain both his art practice and the activities of the gallery, which exclusively exhibits photographic work by contemporary Los Angeles-based artists. Fittingly, the recent six-person show, Muscle Memory, also disregarded the enduring idea that a “day job” is a mark of an unserious or failed artist, instead showcasing artists that have embraced the bleed between their commercial and personal practices to generative ends, utilizing techniques gleaned from their day jobs to realize works rooted in the expression of identity and bodily autonomy.
A group of four video stills depicting the polished, metallic gears that make up the inside of a mechanical watch, Jeffrey Stuker’s Mon gosier de métal parle toutes les langues (2014–23) served as the exhibition’s conceptual axis. Set on a rich maroon backdrop, the watch components appear in various arrangements across the stills, as if gradually coming apart. Though these images mimic photographic seeing (down to the optic replication of a particular Zeiss lens) they are not photographic but digitally fabricated by Stuker, who works as a professional animator. On their surface, the images could pass as slick advertisements, but here, Stuker subverts a skill honed on the job to meditate on the famed ’70s-era labor strikes at the factory of French watchmaker LIP. Unusually, the workers did not cease production when they occupied the factory. Instead, they began self-managing, continuing to “illegally” manufacture watches, which they sold at a cool 40% discount, effectively undermining the luxury market.1 In devoting ten years of meticulous work to the construction of Mon gosier—a digital object that contains little inherent commodity value—Stuker reflects the gesture of the LIP workers, who also disconnected their craft from the unchecked will of capitalism. The work thus offers a multi-layered, self-reflexive commentary on labor and time, paying homage to the spirit of the LIP workers via images that—unlike photographs—are untethered from time.
Across the room, Tanya Brodsky’s Red Forest (2023) hung in the gallery’s storefront window. Featuring Adobe stock images printed on either side of a set of vertical blinds, the sculpture’s pastoral surface feels garish and plastic, like something that might turn up in the depths of AliExpress, but Brodsky has imbued the materials with personal significance. The image on one side of the blinds depicts four wild horses amidst a landscape of dry brush and pine trees; the other looks into a tangle of red-brown branches. Both were taken inside the 1,000 square miles of restricted, heavily-contaminated land surrounding the site of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster known as the “exclusion zone,”2 and represent the poignant scene seared into Brodsky’s familial memory as she and her parents fled by train following the nuclear disaster and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. At Brodsky’s former day job in commercial advertising, she was tasked with turning crunchy stock images into worthy promotional graphics. Yet, in this sculpture, she turns photographs that can be licensed for $79.99 into sites of intimate reflection on the nature of exile. Red Forest takes on particular resonance in the context of the genocide Russia is presently enacting in Ukraine.3 Though Brodsky is not the maker of the images, the work feels cognizant of the photographers whose bodies entered into proximity to this contaminated land to take the photographs. She works through these images as a proxy for her own body, which cannot return home amidst a ceaseless struggle for dominion and empire.
In this way, the works in Muscle Memory skewed heavily toward self-portraiture, though not always literally. Janna Ireland’s Recession (2023) comprises a wooden end table that holds three mass-produced hinged photo frames arranged in descending size. Each frame contains three self-portraits, the largest of which shows Ireland sitting in a chair, backlit by a large window. The compositions of the three images are identical, but the camera’s exposure settings in each have been changed, causing Ireland’s figure to “disappear” (or recede, as the title suggests): In the final image, her body is only a silhouette. The triptych demonstrates the racial bias that has persisted in the algorithms of contemporary digital technologies—the photographs are technically “poor” because the camera is incapable of simultaneously producing a balanced exposure for Ireland’s Black skin and the bright window. Meanwhile, Ireland’s walnut table recalls the role of furniture manufacturers in inciting change at Kodak in the late ’70s—the company only began to take the fact that their film stock was incapable of adequately capturing dark tones seriously after its commercial furniture (and chocolate candy) clients, who bought film in bulk for advertising, began to complain.4 Recession engages with commercial photography differently than the other works on view, exploiting a flaw in the camera to reinscribe that it is itself a commercial machine. Among other things, the work feels like an attempt to come to terms with reliance on a tool that has continually failed Black individuals.
Muscle Memory seems to argue that, however mechanical, photographs are not born from a place of detachment. Photography is a readily commercial medium, used to perpetuate and support consumerism. But the camera is not a neutral mechanism, especially as the making of most images today still relies on a physical body. And image-making impacts the body, too: Several months ago, Schaedel began experiencing issues with his dominant eye as a result of a decade spent peering through a viewfinder. His optometrist told him, in no uncertain terms, that he needed to stop photographing in such earnest. Still, rather than offer flat criticism of the conditions of life and art-making under capitalism (easy, in a country on the eve of a devastating economic depression) the artists in this exhibition expose the tender realities of their relationships to commercial photography as a kind of reparative. They insist on their human presence as image-makers, enacting a nuanced and poignant resistance against anonymous labor and capitalism’s tireless attempt to extract, cycle, and flatten images.
This review was originally published in Carla issue 32.