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Susan Sontag wrote that photographs lie—what lives outside the frame can tell us more about the photograph than perhaps the subject itself. In PARATEXTUAL, the current group show at Samuel Freeman, social constructions and issues of authorship are explored primarily through photographic prints, video, and manipulated documents; a straightforward exhibition with a convoluted concept.
Works that play with image and text are on the nose: Juan Capistran’s mounted red vinyl text blends literary excerpts and historical text arranged on glass panels making it nonsensical and disorienting to read. In her series Geometries (all 2017), Samira Yamin cuts delicate Islamic motifs into Time magazine articles on violence in the Middle East. Here, photographic images help sift the density of each work’s context, but without them, other works feel laborious or overwrought.
The Rape Contract (2016) by Shevaun Wright features 14 sheets of a legal contract regarding a sexual assault which have been altered with notes written in infrared ink. It’s an important work that requires the viewer to use a flashlight decode difficult subject matter—an involved and laborious process that discourages holistic audience participation, and instead offers only bits and pieces.
Similarly, Public Access (2011-2014) by David Horvitz, a series of 12 photographs that the artist had uploaded to Wikipedia (only to be taken down) of Horvitz standing the edge of various bodies of water, questions the relationship between crowd-sourced information posted publicly and an individual’s personal experience. The exhibition is an embarrassment of riches with multitudinous implications; each work is it’s own reality that overlaps and interrupts its counterparts.
The modes in which identity is explored in PARATEXTUAL feel at once somber, banal, political, and exhausting. If it is the intention of the gallery to restage the draining nature of our current political climate, they have succeeded. In chorus, the work competes—it is difficult to chose which work to invest in, leaving the rest unexplored even as each perspective is as crucial as the next. The cultural inscriptions each piece presents will ignite different understandings from varying audience members even as they overwhelm, crowded into one room.
PARATEXTUAL runs May 13–June 17, 2017 at Samuel Freeman (2639 South La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034).